Category Archives: Branding

What Was Poppin’ at the Sweets and Snacks Expo?

Original Gourmet Lollipop Queen

Photo Credit: ; Amanda Gajdosik & Crystal Lindell

Landing in Chicago at 7:00 Monday morning on the red-eye from Las Vegas sounded like the worst idea in the world.  Tack on a 90-minute rush hour taxi communte from O’Hare to the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown Chicago and one may think I was intentionally torturing myself.  Fast forward to Monday afternoon and my travel nightmare seemed like a distant memory thanks to the buzz surrounding the Original Gourmet booth at McCormick Place for the NCA Sweets and Snacks Expo.

Guests posed for pictures with the Lollipop Queen.  The OGFC team redefined perceptions of the lollipop category for thousands of visitors that stopped by booth #571.  Guests left with an understanding why Original Gourmet Lollipops truly are the “World’s Best Lollipops”!


Original Gourmet Sweets and Snacks

Original Gourmet Food Co. booth at NCA Sweets and Snacks Expo

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Filed under Branding, Marketing, Personal, Reviews

OG Lollipops Were a Hit at Hy-Vee and an Olympian’s Favorite Flavor

Original Gourmet Lollipops at HyVee Show

Look for Original Gourmet Lollipops at Hy-Vee locations throughout the Midwest.  Plus, a chance encounter with a lollipop-loving Olympian!


Original Gourmet Lollipops were a hit at the Hy-Vee Show in Des Moines, IA.  A few phrases we repeatedly overheard throughout the day:

  • “These are the best lollipops!”
  • “I love these things!”
  • “There isn’t another product that’s even close in comparison.”

Responses like these are a constant reminder that we have an awesome product at Original Gourmet.  I even received a brand new Metrokane Rabbit wine aerator in exchange for a cotton candy lollipop – my blockbuster trade of the day!

Kansas City Stadiums

After a quick ride to Kansas City for an appointment, we were homeward bound.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Canadian Olympic softball pitcher Danielle Lawrie.  She’s a fan of Original Gourmet Lollipops and said she loves them when she’s traveling.  Danielle leaves this week to join her team in Japan for the next 9 months, so I had to hook her up with a stash of her favorite flavors for the trip (Cotton Candy & Blue Raspberry).  The only downside — she was so humble and awesome that I can’t heckle her brother at the next Blue Jays/Red Sox game I attend.  Keep it poppin’ in Japan Danielle!

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Filed under Branding, Marketing, Professional, Social Media & SEO

How to Easily Answer the “What Do You Do For Work” Question

Stop creating elaborate explanations stuffed with an exorbitant amount of industry jargon in a pathetic attempt to make your position and responsibilities appear on par with that of a Fortune 500 CEO.  Get over yourself.  Nobody is buying your line of B.S. for the same reason resumes and references are becoming a thing of the past — talk is cheap and people want to see action.

Keep It Simple KISSI recently presented at “Career Day” for a 1st grade class.  After 10 years working in sales and marketing, it was a relief to speak with an authentic, captive audience.  First grade students do not sugar-coat their responses, which makes for an interesting Q&A.  The candid feedback I received from the class was a refreshing reminder to focus on the basics and K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid.  The students didn’t care about fancy job titles or industry vocabulary.  What do you do?  Do you like your job?  Do you get along with the people you work with?

Stop creating false impressions with everyone you meet.  Go back to the basics.  Ask yourself: would my explanation make sense to a first grade student?  If not, simplify even more.  You’ll have an opportunity to impress after you win them over with your humble personality and no-nonsense approach.  

A First Grade Student’s Response To:

“What Do You Do For Work?”

First Grade Job Description

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Filed under Branding, Marketing, Personal, Professional

When You Don’t Have Time For Social Networking

Don’t be fooled by the the limited activity you see on this blog.  If you’ve been paying attention then you know that a social footprint goes well beyond a blog and there are several strategies to maintain a social presence with little or no additional effort at all.

social media iconsWe’ve already outlined a simple, effective strategy to develop an online presence and I taught you why your online presence is more important than street cred, but what do you do when your time is limited?  Social networking “groupies” are easy to spot because they are the first people to fall off the grid when life gets busy and time is limited.  Groupies only care about their social presence when they have nothing better to do.  If you want to be a Groupie then I suggest you go creep around with other groupie/stalker types, but if your prerogative (see inevitable footnote) is to maintain your social presence with a limited time commitment then I’ll make the next 45-seconds of your precious time worthwhile.  

Forget meaningful blogging when time is limited.  It requires too much time.  You can quickly post memes, quotes, and relevant content to a Tumblr blog to stay top of mind and continue contributing content.  Twitter is the best use of your time.  Retweet a few items that peaked your curiosity and auto-schedule posts using the content from your regular reading material or blog roll.  Bookmark a portion of this content on Delicious.  Leave a post on LinkedIn each day (and don’t forget to re-post on Twitter/Facebook when you do).  Google is your friend.  +1 everything you read and make a few of these posts public on your Google+ page.  Check-in on Fourquare at all meetings, events, and/or when you’re traveling (don’t forget to share these check-ins on Twitter/Facebook too).  

You just incorporated at least 7 social networks into your daily activities with little or no additional effort.  Best of all, your social presence is stronger as ever.  Time is limited so move along and implement your own abbreviated approach!

Need proof it works?  Follow my activity over the past few weeks:

Over the past three weeks my Klout score went up nearly 3 points.  I’ve managed to stay relevant event when I’m barely present!

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Filed under Branding, Personal, Professional, Social Media & SEO

Wake Up and Realize Why A Generation Is Failing

You can blame the schools.  Plenty of people blame social inequalities.  When in doubt, blame Congress and the President!  Each day it is impossible to avoid countless interactions ranging from “it’s not fair”, to “that’s not right”, and “we need to talk to someone about this!”


Social Media Wake Up Call

A 2012 article published by the Huffington Post went viral after it begged the question “Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids?”  The buzz that followed was only because the author, Mickey Goodman, told the truth!  People hate hearing the truth and it’s never comfortable being on the receiving end of a harsh reality check.

This could not be more evident in tweets and posts by Notre Dame fans following their demoralizing defeat in the NCAA BCS championship game last night.  Over the holidays a family-friend told me that he only wants Notre Dame to lose so it will diminish some egos — particularly the heir of superiority and elitist mentality he sensed while in the company of Notre Dame alumni and loyal fans.  Nonetheless, even after Alabama crushed Notre Dame in every facet of the game, those egos are more present than ever as loyal Fighting Irish blame referees, time between games, and even the University of Alabama being a public institution as a competitive advantage.  A complete ass-whooping cannot subdue the monsters our society created.

However, the shortcomings and character flaws that symbolize a generation make it incredibly easy for you to gain recognition.  Highlight your character and brand identity by acknowledging your weaknesses.  Exposing some vulnerabilities demonstrates an authenticity that is rarely seen in today’s society and creates a captive audience you can easily win-over when the time comes to demonstrate your expertise or make a point.

Opportunities are everywhere.  Ambition is maintained by focusing goals that represent personal accomplishments, not a standard set by society.  Remember, the bar is set low — i.e. “everyone gets a trophy”.  Is that your standard?  Or, will you hold yourself to a higher standard?  Separating yourself from the “Entitled Generation” requires understanding the pitfalls, developing a keen sense of reality, and a willingness to live by a different standard.

If you need a reality check, watch David McCullough’s commencement address to the graduating seniors of Wellesley High School.  Wellesley is one of the wealthiest towns in Massachusetts and ranks among the top school districts in both the state and the country.  In case my message wasn’t clear: “You’re are not special.”  But, you are unique.  You just need to show people and create that captive audience!

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Filed under Branding, Personal, Sarcasm

20 Review Sites That Will Expand Your Influence

Social influence peopleAmazon, Epinions, and Yelp were pioneers of the user feedback and rating movement.  A recent “Review Boom” lead to dozens of new feedback platforms, rating scales, and opinion forums.  Consumers can’t determine the best source for reliable content, let alone understand how the different rating systems work.  To become a trusted-source of information you must know where your voice will be heard.  If you leave a review where nobody will see it, does anyone care what you think?


There are only a handful of sites that will help you reach a large and diverse audience.  Many review sites are merely aggregators that pull content from affiliate websites and use strategic partnerships to provide visitors with user-generated feedback collected from a variety of online platforms.  Start with the most prominent platforms then re-post your material on 2-3 smaller sites that may reach a different audience.  A carefully crafted, constructive review is more valuable than a handful of generic posts that offer no substance.


The list below is separated into three tiers that will help prioritize your efforts, build credibility, and monitor  how your social influence impacts the community.  Tier I reaches the largest audiences and your content will be broadcast across the web through affiliate sites and other feeds.  Tier II includes content aggregators, sites that reach smaller audiences, and platforms that are overlooked because their primary focus is not reviews or user-generated feedback.  Lastly, Tier III lists niche pages that cater to a specific audience, such as service providers, restaurants-only, or traveler planners.


20 User-Generated Review and Rating Sites You Need To Expand Your Influence:


Dan Leavitt Yelp ReviewsTier I

  1. Google Local – create a profile on Google+ so your page is displayed on the SERP next to your reviews.  Let’s not start about the SEO benefits that stem from being an active user within the Google community (Google+, maps, etc)
  2. Yelp – it’s more than just reviews.  Check-in at your favorite locations, mark reviews as “funny” or “cool” to interact with other Yelpers, “like” other user’s activity to stay visible under ‘Recent Activity’.
  3. – participate in the largest collection of reviews, make wish lists, and mark “useful” reviews from other members.
  4. Foursquare – often overlooked, yet very easy to utilize.  Post tips when you check-in (include recommendations, advice for newcomers, or fun facts) and don’t forget to note the tips you’ve completed at each check-in.
  5. Facebook – most feedback posted to company and brand pages is visible to less than 20% of your friends, but companies and brands take notice.  Tag pages, leave comments, and “like” content.  “Likes” are a sign of approval and the equivalent of a positive review in Facebook World.  Your friends, friends of friends, and others see comments you leave and posts you “like”.


Tier II

  1. – one of many sites similar to Yelp, yet reaches a smaller audience with a very simple feedback form and rating system that compares total up/down votes to offer the percentage of CitySearch members that recommend a particular business.
  2. Bing Local – see “Google Local” with smaller market share.
  3. Yahoo! Local – ditto
  4. – site includes reviews but links consumers to online retailers that offer the product.  Users do not complete transactions on the Epinions website.
  6. MerchantCircle – business listings, similar to Yellowpages, with an element that encourages users to provide a basic review of the business.
  8. LinkedIn – in addition to personal recommendations, company pages allow users to comment on “Recent Updates” and recommend items that companies include under “Products”.
  9. Judy’s Book 


Tier III

  1. – an alternative to legal action, RipOffReport is a public record of company complaints that can destroy a businesses reputation.  Similar to the BBB, companies can respond to allegations and attempt to resolve each consumer complaint.
  2. Angie’s List – members pay a monthly fee to access reviews.  Only members can post feedback.  Meaningful content and more accountability make Angie’s list a reliable for reviews.
  3. – the gold standard for restaurant ratings.
  4. – the gold standard for travel and accommodations feedback.


Don’t post on RipOffReport every time you have a bad consumer experience.  It happens.  Plus, it’s just as easy to damage your own reputation if you’re quick to post complaints.  Nobody likes a cynic who never has anything positive to say.  People are quick to post their negative experiences and overlook the routine displays of exceptional service and professionalism they encounter on a daily basis.   I follow a “3-1 Rule” – offer 3 positive reviews for every substandard review.  My 3-1 Rule also helps me stay positive throughout the day.


Reviews and user-generated feedback are an essential component of your social influence.  Celebrity status is not achieved overnight but establishing a solid presence on each Tier 1 site, combined with an effective social media strategy, will expand your social influence exponentially after just a few weeks.  Within a couple months you’ll have more influence than Joan Rivers at a red carpet fashion special!


Filed under Branding, Reviews