Chris Richards

marketing | branding | tech | startups

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What Craft Beer Taught Me About Marketing

craft beer lineup

I like beer. But, when I tell people that I like beer, I’m not talking about the big three American brands you’d expect to see at college frat parties. I like craft beer. Small, local craft beer breweries have exploded in popularity across the US in recent years, and oddly enough, their massive growth has taught me a thing or two about marketing a brand.

Right off the bat, the flavor and variety of choices do have something to do with why I enjoy craft beers so much.  But, while there’s nothing quite like the bite of a good IPA, or the complexity of a mocha stout, their flavors alone don’t endear me to certain craft beers. When I think about what truly speaks to me as a beer drinker and consumer, it’s the distinct, creative, and proud brands the various craft brewers have created for themselves.

Each brewery markets its beer differently, and none seems willing to back down on their brand image. In a sense, they’re not ashamed to be themselves. But, what did that teach me about marketing a brand? A lot. Looking at how craft breweries present themselves and their beers to the public, I’ve taken away a few key points that are applicable to any brand. So, let’s take a look at what we can learn from craft beer marketing.
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Off the Grid: Social Media in a Developing Country

During the summer, I went “off the grid” for a volunteer trip to Honduras. As someone who lives and breathes social media, tech, and the internet on a daily basis, I thought this trip would be a welcomed break from being connected. As it turns out, even in the rural countryside of a developing Latin American country, I couldn’t escape the powerful reach of Facebook.

A Line of People Await Treatment in Honduras

To provide some context, I was volunteering with Global Brigades, an organization with a mission to “empower volunteers to facilitate sustainable solutions in under-resourced communities while fostering local cultures.” There are multiple facets to the program, though the one I attended was focused on providing community health care.

Each day, we traveled several hours away from the capital city, Tegucigalpa, into the countryside of Honduras. Arriving at a small concrete compound which was normally used for a school, we set up stations to speak with, treat, and distribute medicine to the residents of the village. The village had no electricity and many of the homes had no running water. We brought our own gas generator to provide power for an electronic medical records system. We had to haul in tanks of fresh water just for our use during the day. Needless to say, I figured I was about as far away from Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or the internet as I would ever be!

By the end of the week-long trip, I had all but forgotten about keeping up to date with Facebook statuses or checking-in to places on Foursquare. Then, the true power and reach of Facebook smacked me right in the face.

There I was, in the middle of a small village in rural Latin America, talking to a teenage girl from the area to which we were providing service. She told me she was studying to be an English teacher. We discussed her career aspirations and the differences between Honduran and American life. I enjoyed our conversation and the novelty of sharing about our different cultures. Then, she did it…she asked, “Do you have El Face?”

What? Had she just asked me if I had  Facebook? I had to double check. “Do you mean, FACEBOOK?” I asked. Not being fluent in Spanish, I had to make sure that something hadn’t been lost in translation. Certainly, a teenager from a village that had no electricity, barely had running water, and had no garbage collection service, couldn’t be asking me if I used Facebook. But she was.

Sí, por supuesto! Todo el mundo tiene El Face!” she exclaimed. Roughly translated, she was saying, “DUH, of course I have Facebook. The whole world has Facebook!”

Me and My New Honduran Facebook Friends

Me and My New Honduran Facebook Friends

I shouldn’t have been surprised. With over 901 million active monthly users, Facebook could stand alone as the 3rd largest country in the world. It was after returning home to find a friend request from my new Honduran friend, though, that the global power of the social network really struck me on a personal level.

To me, this story highlights the point that the world is truly your audience with Facebook. Though we may all experience vast differences in our day-to-day lives, Facebook has become a common ground for interaction. Sure, the Honduran teenager I met may not be as involved with Facebook as I am. (I rarely ever close it!) In fact, she probably only accesses it about once a week when she travels to a bigger city. But, the very fact that the social network could serve as a common ground between our two very different lives in the first place is intriguing to me.

In the future, I’d love to see more small businesses, “Mom & Pop shops,” and local brands embrace this worldly point of view. Why think locally when you could be making connections globally through a Facebook page? Has your brand started engaging fans globally? What could you do to provide value to others outside of your local area? Clearly, with Facebook, global is the new local.

There’s no reason to limit your audience when Facebook seems to have penetrated almost every corner of the earth. Or in the words of my new friend, “Todo el mundo tiene El Face!”

*Originally written for the Fanpage Toolkit blog.


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It’s Hip to be Square

Everyone’s a square these days. Have you noticed?

No, I don’t mean everyone is boring, dull, or uninteresting. But, literally, our “online selves” are all squares now! Take a look at your Facebook profile picture, your blog avatar, your Pinterest profile, your entire Instagram photo roll, your LinkedIn profile, Google+ image, and your Twitter handle picture.

They’re all squares!

What’s with this square trend? It wasn’t always that way. Remember Facebook’s long profile pictures that stretched down the left side of profiles or business pages? Those are gone.

What happened to allowing for photography’s golden rule of pleasant aesthetics? The rule of thirds! When taking pictures, the average person does not consider how the image will appear as a square. Modern cameras shoot in 4×6, 3×5, or other rectangular formats, so most people shoot with those dimensions in mind. Especially when composing a portrait, photographers aim to display the subject in the most flattering way. By forcing us to then crop those well-thought-out, well-shot photos into tiny,cropped, cramped squares is doing photography across social media a disservice!

Photography rule of thirds Facebook profile pics

This looks much nicer than a tight crop around her face.

The rule of thirds ensures that an image is pleasant to the eye. It’s an accepted way of composing a photograph. Similar to the Fibonacci Sequence, it’s a natural pattern for displaying something beautifully. So, why are we all being confined to plain old squares?

Mobile phones. That’s the only answer I could come up with when writing this. Think about your Facebook news feed, your twitter stream, or most obviously, Instagram. They adopted a square approach to fit mobile screens. As you scroll through Facebook and Twitter, there you have an easy visual representation of each friend’s smiling face in a neat little square cropped, cramped, and uncomfortably close on the left side. It makes sense. But it’s also not unlike the format of infamously-terrible passport photos. For larger formats, though, a square limit just doesn’t always make sense or make the most aesthetically pleasing image when cropped.

With Instagram churning out millions of square pictures each day, I don’t see the square format disappearing any time soon. But, is it old-fashioned of me to want to think outside of “the box?”


Return of the GIF

When the internet first became publicly accessible, and everyone and their crazy cat-loving aunt started creating websites (about cats), the .GIF file type was all the rage. It was the closest thing to “movie-like” animation that most of us had access to on the internet, and it usually came in the form of a twinkling star or a silly, cheesy moving shape like this being scattered across some amateur Geocities website. I was young at the time, but I remember being thrilled by any type of moving graphics on the computer screen, especially if I could add them to a PowerPoint slide in computer class.

Then, they disappeared. At least to my knowledge. With the advent of DVD drives (woah!) on laptops and more advanced 3-D rendering video capabilities, it seems like .GIFs got pushed aside for real video clips and “cooler” 3-D rendered animation.

30-rock-500 gif cinemagraph

Then sharing real video on the internet became standard with the popularity of YouTube, and that was all fine and dandy. People shared videos (and still do) in great numbers. It was not until recently, that we’ve seen the .GIF find its place back in popular culture.

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