posted by Julie Turner Jul 23,2015 @ 11:18AM

A Conversation About Market Research


Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to question a handful of a client’s customers at length for a buyer persona research project. While every call was different, each one was a reminder of how many unique layers customers have.

I spoke to a handful of Happy Customers who were very satisfied with their experience and situation. They showered our client with well-earned appreciation and several offered suggestions for changes they’d like to see made by our client. I also reached out to Potential Customers, many of whom I found out viewed our client favorably but the timing for further interactions was not yet right.

I keep coming back to one market research call with a Potential Customer — one who may or may not become a customer in the long run. It turns out she’d had a handful of successful interactions over years with our client but just couldn’t seem to get across the threshold. As the interview went on I learned how she found out about our client, her impression of them and their service, and how she believed they could satisfy her future living needs. It was puzzling that after years this union had not come to fruition.

Then she explained why her interactions with our client had stalled. Her oldest child had been diagnosed with cancer and had battled the aggressive disease for the past two years. I could hear the pain in her voice as she told me the words no mother ever wants to say — that her child’s life had ended earlier in the spring.

Her words were a stark reminder to me about customers. With highly targeted CRM operations and our own well-defined advertising objectives and measures, it can be very easy to focus on the layer of a person’s life that directly involves us — or our message — so much so that we forget how much the other layers color the space we’re working in.

Taking the time to speak to not just customers, but people who have interacted maybe only once (or seemingly not at all) with your company can tell you so much about the market in which you’re working. It can also remind you of the many factors beyond competition that can come between you and potential customers.

posted by Julie Turner Jun 10,2015 @ 11:56AM

The Language of Emoji

Image by Ji Lee/NY TimesOne of the greatest things about Riggs Partners’ Account Manager Courtney Melendez is not her ability to save every dog on the planet (although she is trying). It’s not her role in the #porchpants revolution or her dashing husband, Mario.

Courtney speaks emoji. I mean complex thoughts and sentences that are entirely understandable and often quite funny. She is one of many people who have embraced the smiley world of emoji with two fist bumps and a raise the roof.

A Short History

Emoji — the 800+ array of emotive keyboard characters that pepper Facebook, texts, Instagram comments — are officially everywhere. Even in our closets.

While emoji have been doing their thing since the late 90s, they began to steamroll Paleozoic words and emoticons when they were introduced on iOS in 2011 and Android in 2013. The brainchild of Shigetaka Kurita, emoji began their crawl from the interwebs shortly following the After Dark Toaster Screensaver Era and enjoyed widespread use in Japanese mobile and texting before showing up in fonts such as Wingdings. Emoji became part of Unicode Standard in 2010 and, since then, have wormed their way into almost half of comments and captions on Instagram alone.

The Lord of Emoji Land

If you’re like me, you’ve never woken up in the middle of the night wondering why we have pizza and chicken leg emoji, but curiously lack a taco emoji. It’s because of the Unicode Consortium, a group that oversees how text is coded into computer-readable language.

In addition to announcing the 38 new emoji that’ll be coming in 2016, the UC recently overhauled the process of how new emoji are born. The new standards mean that Taco Bell’s marketing efforts may just land the planet the taco emoji we all deserve.

Poop or Chocolate Ice Cream?

Thanks to their visual nature, emoji can do what text cannot: show sentiment. Having a party? Perhaps the frosty beer mug or a hip swinging salsa dancer lady. Seeing too many snake photos on your Facebook timeline? Tap out a bug-eyed surprise face.

To find out what emoji use reveals, we can turn to the emerging science of emojiology. SwiftKey’s Emoji Report dug deep into their cloud vaults to analyze more than a billion emoji used by speakers of 16 languages around the world. Here are a few things they found:

  • The French use four times as many heart emoji than other languages, and it’s the only language for which a “smiley” is not #1
  • Americans lead for a random assortment of emoji and categories, including skulls, birthday cake, fire, tech, LGBT, meat and female-oriented emoji.
  • Around the world, traditional emoji faces are the most frequently used. Primary stalwarts happy faces and sad faces lead the pack but are closely followed by hearts, hand gesture and romantic emoji.

The Bottom Line

While all of this is as interesting and vital as, say, a VHS emoji, the report does reveal that emoji users in all languages tend to use more positive emoji (70%) than negative (15%).

How do I, who grew up without computers, cellphones and Internet, know that emoji have migrated from fad to a foundational means of communication? It’s not my friend Courtney, but my six- and ten-year-old sons.

Every now and again, these two people (who do not have smartphones or even phones for that matter) want to vicariously communicate via a mom-generated Facebook comment, text or Instagram. It’s not the words chosen or even the platform used that’s their greatest concern. It’s that mom gets the almighty emoji right.

Holy Home Alone cat emoji, Batman.



For more emoji fun, have a look-see at the Twitter emoji tracker. If you need to write a whitepaper, hotfoot it over to the emoji two-parter from Instagram, which is loaded with very smart actual information.

posted by Kelly Davis Jul 02,2014 @ 08:00AM

A Smashing Success: PR Case Study

For the past year and a half, several of us at Riggs Partners have immersed ourselves in the “better burger” fast casual segment of the restaurant industry. Through our work with two separate franchise owners, we’ve helped to open the first three South Carolina locations of Smashburger, one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the nation. Smashburger’s corporate office in Denver places a strong emphasis on public relations with limited paid advertising supplementing the marketing effort.

Smashburger grand openings follow a formula established by their corporate marketing team. This tried and true plan has guided the company through more than 240 store openings in the US and several international markets. Our grand openings include four private events before the public opening: a “Friends and Family” preview event for the franchisees’ closest friends, associates and vendors; a media event for the “ceremonial first smash” with a local celebrity; a VIP event for local dignitaries; and an “Eat and Tweet” for local food bloggers and online influencers.

For each store opening, Smashburger’s franchise owners have partnered with a local charitable organization in their respective markets. In Columbia, the partner is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia. In Charleston, the partner is the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Children’s Hospital Fund. Our clients don’t just want to write a check; they want to have a long-term, ongoing relationship with these organizations that make a meaningful impact on the lives of children. For each of the first store openings in the Columbia and Charleston markets, the respective franchise owners agreed to donate $1 per Smashburger or Smashchicken sandwich sold during their grand opening month to their charitable partner, with a minimum commitment of $5,000.

One traditional component of a Smashburger grand opening is the “celebrity smasher.” For both Columbia and Charleston, the charitable angle opened the door to a wonderful tie-in for the celebrity smashers. In Columbia, we invited two pairs of “Bigs” and “Littles” with Big Brothers Big Sisters to be our smashers. A Big Brother/Little Brother pair and a Big Sister/Little Sister pair served as our smashers, which was the first time that children had served as celebrity smashers at any Smashburger. In Charleston, we invited a 13 year-old girl with a very rare disease who has been treated at MUSC throughout her life. She smashed burgers alongside the Mayor of Summerville, who just so happened to have worked as a short order cook one summer as a teenager. It was fun to see them in the kitchen smashing the store’s first official burgers together.


Hayden, age 13, smashes the Summerville store's first burger. Hayden, age 13, smashes the Summerville store's first burger as her mother Cindy looks on.

Each of the grand openings has been a “smashing” success with terrific media coverage and a smoothly executed series of events that brought hundreds of guests through each store during their preview events. The two Columbia stores combined have raised more than $10,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters, while the Summerville store raised $8,147 for MUSC Children’s Hospital as a result of the overwhelming sales in its first month.


"Bigs" and "Littles" from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia teamed up to smash the Irmo store's first official burgers. "Bigs" and "Littles" from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia teamed up to smash the Irmo store's first official burgers.

Some of the lessons we’ve learned during these retail grand openings include:

  • Practice makes perfect. Have a “dress rehearsal” to iron out the kinks beforehand.
  • Get local. Find a charitable partner or some other community tie-in.
  • Focus on quality over quantity. Packing hundreds of guests into the restaurant may build curiosity from the outside, but we’d prefer that guests enjoy a leisurely paced meal and an overall great experience.
  • Make it fun. Be sure that guests aren’t just treated to free food, but also enjoy a festive atmosphere. We’ve hired balloon artists, ordered fun promotional items and given out coupons for repeat visits.
  • Build ambassadors. By pulling back the curtain into the store’s menu and operations, we’ve secured a great deal of goodwill for the restaurant and its owners.
  • Evaluate. Always take time to do a “post mortem” meeting during which you discuss what worked, what didn’t and how you can improve next time.

While Riggs Partners has developed a strong reputation through the years for our work in the nonprofit sector, we find just as much reward when we work with business owners who have a deeper sense of purpose – something that motivates them to develop and deliver upon a mission that may or may not be obvious to their customers. The next time you bite into that burger or slurp that shake, keep in mind that you just might be helping someone in need.

posted by Will Weatherly Jun 10,2014 @ 01:55PM

A Little Reassurance

The fear of regret is a powerful driver of indecision.

As such, marketing ends up spending a large portion of its time at the entryways to brand funnels, asking would-be passers-through to keep focused on potential up-sides instead of potential down-sides.

But the fear of regret continues well past the end of the funnel. “Did I really make the right choice?” With all the noise, opinions, opportunities, and options, it’s easy for consumers to doubt, and easier still for them to switch.

So, smart brands are finding ways to keep in touch. It can be anything. Most often, the more personal and permanent, the better.









posted by Kelly Davis Feb 18,2014 @ 02:23PM

Making PR Magic

While much of the nation was under snow last week, I had the fortune of spending the week in beautiful and sunny Orlando, Florida attending the PRConsultants Group conference, our annual gathering of senior-level PR professionals from around the country.

When we originally booked our conference hotel within the Walt Disney World Resort Area last year, we were told that they would be in the process of converting from the Royal Plaza Hotel to a new property, the B Resort. Renovations were expected to be completed by the time our group arrived, but as anyone who has ever built or renovated their home knows, construction doesn’t always happen on our personal timelines. As our conference approached, it became evident that they were a bit behind schedule. (The hotel is now slated for a grand opening in the summer of 2014.)

Since it would have been terribly difficult to find another location to suit the needs of our group on such short notice, the hotel agreed to accommodate us, with the understanding that they were in "soft opening" mode. You had to feel for them. They had potentially the worst set of critics around – a group full of outspoken PR people with extensive experience in event management and logistics, and national media contacts to boot.

What began as tempered expectations were quickly turned around and sustained throughout our stay by a staff that was committed to exceptional customer service and hospitality. From the moment each guest arrived to the moment we left, the staff went above and beyond to make us feel extra special. They were friendly, welcoming and accommodating. Their willingness to solve problems and to find quick resolutions to minor inconveniences demonstrated not only a customer-focused culture, but also a leadership team that empowered their employees to pursue any idea or remedy that would make our stay better.

Here are just a few examples of how they ensured that we had an experience that we would be proud to share:

  • Their culinary staff served a cooked-to-order breakfast and provided complimentary snacks, including custom-designed cookies.
  • They ordered and assembled stylish furniture for the lobby so that we would have somewhere to congregate in the evenings.
  • They arranged with nearby hotels for the use of pools and fitness rooms.
  • When winter weather along the east coast threatened some guests’ travel plans, they offered to accommodate anyone impacted by canceled flights.
  • When a staff member overheard one of our members lamenting a sore throat, he prepared a special, soothing “homemade recipe” with cucumbers and tonic water.
  • Minor maintenance issues were resolved within minutes, including one repairman who provided a guest with his name and personal extension in the case of further concerns.
  • Most notably, the general manager asked us to serve as a “test guest group” and report to him directly any suggestions that would be helpful for future travelers. It made us feel that our opinions mattered, and gave us the satisfaction of knowing that our input would help future hotel guests have an even better experience than we did.

In the end, this property created 40 ambassadors who came away feeling impressed, relaxed, pampered and appreciated. The PR value was immeasurable. The cost of making it right was priceless.

In a culture that is so resigned to bad customer service, shouldn’t we all shine the spotlight on those who go above and beyond? Share your stories of great customer service in the comments section below!




By the numbers

youtube is 2nd largest search engine