Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sales Soar on Cyber Monday

By Eve Hemsley

After the turkey is carved on Thanksgiving, the mashed potato bowl is emptied and all the pie tins have been licked clean, the last thing I want to do is fight big crowds and go shopping – but for some people it’s a sport, and the Olympics of shopping occurs on Black Friday. Black Friday has reigned as the ultimate shopping day of the year until recently when a new contender stepped up: Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday has become the popular alternative to shoppers who like to relax after their turkey and get a good night’s sleep.

Over the past few years, the popularity of Cyber Monday has grown into record breaking numbers and 2011 tops the charts. In 2010, Cyber Monday was the biggest day of online shopping with sales exceeding $1 billion. According to IBM’s Coremetrics report, 2011 sales were up 33% over 2010 and up 29.3% over Black Friday.

Among those shopping online, 10.8% of people used their mobile devices to visit retailer’s sites; Apple’s iPhone and iPad topped the list for mobile device retail traffic. To capitalize on this trend, stores implemented incentives like hourly deals and free shipping, making online shopping more convenient and easy on your bank account. Retailers are realizing the impact of Cyber Monday and creating promotions to take advantage of it.

And what would a big online event be without the influence of social media sites? Facebook led the charge by dominating 86% of all social media traffic. Discussions on the popular networking site included tips about price comparison websites, online scams and in-store shopping experiences. IBM’s Coremetrics report also noted that discussions on social media sites leading up to Cyber Monday increased 115% from 2010 and referrals from social networks increased slightly from Black Friday to Cyber Monday.

Personally, I can see the draw of getting your Christmas shopping done while sitting comfortably on your couch (or where ever you may be with your mobile device), but there is a certain charm to feeling the weight of shopping bags on your arms and seeing the mall Santa lift kids onto his lap. My suggested solution – get the best of both worlds and do both (just maybe not at midnight on Black Friday)!

Eve Hemsley is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR.  Contact her at Eve@MaroonPR.com.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making a Difference Overseas

By John Maroon

In 2007 Cal Ripken was named a Public Diplomacy Envoy to the U.S. State Department. Essentially that makes him a goodwill ambassador representing our nation and in that role he uses baseball as a way to connect with kids and parents in other parts of the world.

In 2007 he traveled to China and in 2008 he visited Nicaragua. This year we were working with the State Department on our next trip and after the devastating tsunami and earthquake rocked Japan it was a no brainer. Japan is a baseball-crazed nation and they definitely needed a boost and a small gesture to remind them that the American people care for them and are here for them.

From November 7-16 Cal, and his former teammate Brady Anderson, visited Japan and put on baseball clinics for girls and boys throughout the country…most notably visiting the areas that were heavily impacted on March 11 by the tsunami and quake.

During that time Cal did a lot of interviews about his visit…in fact more than 65 Million people in Japan and 7 Million people here learned about Cal’s visit through the media. This strong PR push, coupled with a daily video blog, helped raise awareness about the fact that eight months after the earthquake and tsunami, things are not back to normal and more help is needed. Included in that effort is an initiative called Tomodachi, which means “friend” in Japanese. It is a public-private initiative that is helping restore some normalcy to the kids in Japan through sports.

Cal will continue in his role as a Public Diplomacy Envoy and we don’t know where we will be headed next but it is good to know that in this day and age filled with controversy and scandal there is still plenty of good being done through sports.

John Maroon is President of Maroon PR.  Contact him at John@MaroonPR.com.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Need for Information in the Internet Age

By Tim Richardson

It’s all about content…and getting it instantly.

It’s no secret to anyone that the media landscape has changed dramatically over the past several years. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and items like cell phone cameras and flip cams have aided in changing that scope. Additionally, a large number of print publications have resorted to charging visitors for their content on the websites…Sporting News Today, American City Business Journals and, most recently, BaltimoreSun.com are good examples.

But the high-paced Internet world has also fostered opportunities to be creative to utilize a website as a main business, not just a complementary piece to a company. Great examples include Zappos.com and SchooloftheLegends.com.

In the simplest of terms, Zappos.com was born because its founder, Nick Swinmurn, couldn’t find the right pair of shoes… either in the mall or online. After searching the Internet, Swinmurn was amazed that there wasn’t one major retailer that specialized in shoes. So, he became that retailer by launching a business selling shoes through a website…a website that in November 2009 was acquired by Amazon.com in a deal valued at $1.2 billion. Although an online business, Zappos.com understood that reputation was important and was dedicated to being the elite online service leader while also offering customers the best selection….i.e. valued content. Getting customers to associate the Zappos.com brand with premium service was part of the ultimate PR strategy.

About a year ago, a group from Brentwood, Tenn. had a “Swinmurn moment” and launched a website, as a business, dedicated to providing football fans with the opportunity to become even more engaged with their favorite NFL players, past and present. SchoolOfTheLegends.com (SOTL.com) set out to be the number one online social community for football fans and athletes. Capitalizing on the fact that the NFL is America’s most popular sport and that fans can’t get enough of their teams and players, SOTL.com’s goal was to provide those fans with something that they didn’t have before…a unique, content-driven hub for connecting with NFL players. Imagine Facebook, Twitter and YouTube combined…but ALL about football.

Today, SOTL.com has tens of thousands of fan-members, along with more than 2,000 current and former NFL players, and offers a social community that is free to join. It has also evolved to provide content that includes reporters from player correspondents and each team page enables fans to follow games with real-time stats and interact online with fellow fans and former players.

Our desire for information, and in a quick manner at our fingertips, will never end. That is why it is even more important for web-based businesses to provide unique content in a user-friendly manner.

It’s all about the delivery of unique content…without that, you are just another bump on the “Information Super Highway.”
Tim Richardson is Executive Vice President of Maroon PR.  Contact him at Tim@MaroonPR.com

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Lasting Symbol: A Woman & A Ribbon

By Mitchell Schmale

On November 12, 2011, breast cancer activist Evelyn Lauder died at her home in New York City. She passed away after losing a five year battle with ovarian cancer, but will forever be remembered for her contribution to the battle against breast cancer and for helping to create a simple, yet powerful symbol for the fight against the disease.

The now internationally known campaign was created in 1992 when Lauder and her friend, Alexandra Penney, the former editor-in-chief of Self magazine, created a simple pink ribbon to help raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer. It started small – so small in fact that during the early days of the campaign, many people confused the pink ribbon as a symbol for AIDS awareness. Evelyn Lauder and her husband, Leonard, with the Estee Lauder cosmetics company, created the first of the tiny bows to hand out to women at department store cosmetic counters.

From those simple first steps, the campaign grew to symbolize an entire movement and countless fundraising projects from numerous organizations. Ultimately, the campaign helped raise more than $330 million in donations (and counting) to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation that Lauder founded, as well as elevating overall awareness about the disease.

Lauder was born in 1936 in Vienna, Austria and came to the U.S. after fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe with her family. She met her husband in college, the son of Estee Lauder, who owned a small, but growing cosmetics company. Evelyn Lauder was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, but continued to take part in numerous cancer-related events around the world.

Breast cancer will strike roughly one in eight women in the U.S. But, thanks to greater awareness which has led to earlier detection from screenings, death rates have been falling since 1990. It’s amazing how much of a difference one person and a simple idea can make in the lives of so many others around the world. Thanks to Evelyn Lauder for being one of those people and for making a difference.

Mitchell Schmale is Vice President of Maroon PR.  Contact him at Mitchell@MaroonPR.com.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seasonal Treats: The Pumpkin Spice Latte

By Kristen Seabolt

With so many saddening stories in the media this week, from the tragic death of legendary boxer Joe Frazier, to the abduction of baseball player Wilson Ramos, to the horrifying scandal at Penn State, I wanted to take my blog this week in a lighter direction…the direction of fall and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Every fall, millions around the country (and maybe even the world) anticipate the return of the seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte to their nearest coffee shop. In recent years especially, the Pumpkin Spice Latte has risen to fame among coffee and latte drinkers across the map. Starbucks for example has seen a dramatic increase of 44 percent in sales of the Pumpkin Spice Latte this year alone, according to CEO Howard Schultz. Speaking personally, I have not had a normal coffee since the Pumpkin Spice Latte returned…I even have Pumpkins Spice coffee creamer (courteously of International Delight).

Pumpkin Spice Lattes are not only a delicious warm beverage, but are also synonymous with the end of summer and the start of the holiday season. When you drink a Pumpkins Spice Latte, you think of fall, pumpkin pie, football, Thanksgiving, leaves changing, holiday music and other sweet treats.

For years, Starbucks has seen so much success and anticipation of their Pumpkin Spice Latte, that other companies felt the urgency to begin concocting their own versions of this seasonal sensation. With that being said, I thought it only necessary to provide you with my consumer feedback of Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera Bread.

  • Pros – Quality coffee, Well known brand that specializes in coffee, Not too sweet but great pumpkin flavor, Option of whipped cream, Several options of milk (whole, skim, soy), Option for iced, Recyclable cups, Cozy atmosphere, Drive Thru’s at some!
  • Cons – Price (roughly $4.00 for a grande/large), Cup sizes (16 oz. in a grande/large), Strong coffee, Long lines in the morning/lunch time
Dunkin’ Donuts 
  • Pros – Less expensive (roughly $2.00 for a large), Not too sweet but can still taste the pumpkin, Good cup sizes (20 oz. in a large), Quick service, Drive Thru’s at some!
  • Cons – No whip cream option, Styrofoam cup (non recyclable), In-and-out rushed atmosphere, Known for donuts & munchkins more so than their coffee
Panera Bread 
  • Pros – Option for whipped cream, Nice atmosphere 
  • Cons – Too sweet and masks the pumpkin taste, Not as well known for their coffee (known for their bagels), Semi expensive (roughly $3.50 for a large), Cup size (16 oz. in a large), Only 10% recyclable 
My vote: To be honest, I am torn between Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. If I am in a rush and need a quick and inexpensive tasty Pumpkin Spice, my vote is for Dunkin’, but if I am looking for a cozy atmosphere and quality coffee, I vote for Starbucks. Good thing both are within a mile or two of the office. :)

So, enough about my obsession with Pumpkin Spice Lattes, what’s your favorite holiday beverage?

Kristen Seabolt is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR.  Contact her at Kristen@MaroonPR.com.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


By Pete DeLuca

I am not much of a follower of celebrity gossip. I could care less about which star is dating who, or which celebrity looked better on the red carpet. Still, I – like millions of people worldwide – know who Kim Kardashian is. I am not exactly sure why I know her; she’s not really a singer or an actor, and she doesn’t appear on anything I would ever watch – but still, I know she is popular for being popular (if that makes sense).

But it wasn’t until this week that I realized how popular she is.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story – let me quickly catch you up to speed. Kardashian married NBA player Kris Humphries on August 20, 2011 – after receiving a 20.5 carat engagement ring. After only 72 days, Kardashian filed for divorce on Monday. This is a ridiculous set of circumstances in itself - but that’s not even the most fascinating part.

What I found the most interesting was the astonishing amount of attention this news generated. According to an article from The Hollywood Reporter, news of the couple’s split peaked on Twitter at 12 PM on Monday, with over 1.75% of all tweets dedicated to Kardashian. Among the popular search terms were “72 Days”, “filing for divorce”, “Wedding”, “Marriage”, and my personal favorite “#ThingsLongerThanKimsMarriage”. At one point, Kardashian-related topics represented nine of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter.

On Google, “Kim Kardashian” and “Kris Humphries” ranked third and fifth respectively as the most searched terms on Monday. On Tuesday, Yahoo reported that the Kardashian craze was still in full effect – with Kim, Kris, Kris Jenner (Kim’s mother), and Khloe Kardashian (Kim’s sister) all among the most searched topics… nearly 24-hours after the story broke!

I’m checking out at this point – three days of Kardashian news is more than I ever want to experience in my life again. Back to my normal routine of following the NBA lockout – which hopefully will not appear on #ThingsLongerThanKimsMarriage.

Pete DeLuca is Manager of Creative Services at Maroon PR.  Contact him at Pete@MaroonPR.com.