It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond

Charities partner with retailers and help us deal with spending guilt by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo cred: nixter

I was walking down Tryon the other day and I noticed that a Wachovia branch was promoting their holiday gift cards and its program with Toys for Tots.  So, for every card you buy, Wachovia donates $1 to the charity. (Full disclosure: I used to work for the bank, but I didn’t know anything about this program, so I’m speaking purely as a consumer here.)

I’ve seen (and participated in) lots of local events tied with toy donations within the last week (here, here, and here.)  It made me stop to think about why these toy donation tie-ins are so appealing to everyone (aside from the assumption that the Marines do a bang-up job of getting their mission out.)  Here’s a few reasons:

  • The concept is dead-simple.  Bring a toy, get in for free or at a discount.  Make a purchase, a portion goes to charity.
  • Joy is involved.  Taking 30 minutes to run out and pick up a toy for a child sure beats doing laundry.  Not to mention the joy in store for the recipient.
  • Your dollars get more valueThis NPR Marketplace story captures this concept well.  In tight economic times, it’s hard to justify making a purchase that seems unnecessary or making a straight donation at a register.  By doing it this way, then the money does double duty.

A lil’ something for the tots, and a lil’ something for me.  And good karma for the sponsoring brand.  Everyone wins.

(Given that this is a seasonal post, no promises that the event links will work forever.)

Charlotte’s Bravest break down virtual doors, too. by Nheeda Enriquez
June 19, 2009, 4:50 pm
Filed under: branding, community services, social media | Tags: , , ,

I recently realized that I live around the corner from a little-known incubator of social media innovation in town: Charlotte’s own Fire Station 8.  Two firefighters from its C-shift, Leo Wurschmidt and Jason Almond, have been experimenting with twitter and a station blog, primarily to show the day-to-day, inner workings of the station.  It reaches beyond a traditional website-as-PR-placeholder, inviting visitors to read about the actual calls they go on or the personalities of its staff.

firehouse1The significance of the experiment is that the authors see potential value in regularly sharing this kind of information (in their down time, of course) with the community to demonstrate transparency and, to some degree, local accountability.  They hope to also create a place to share best firefighting practices within their department and with firefighters at large.  (Jason and Leo are studying their Google Analytics to better understand their reading audience.)

My favorite part of the site is the neighbor interviews, which were borne out of their QAP (Quick Access Plan) evaluations.  Part of the job requires visits to area businesses to learn the layout of these sites in case of an emergency.  But the blog also gave them the opportunity to showcase small businesses in the neighborhood and become a local resource of information.

Church in Charlotte, web 2.0-style by Nheeda Enriquez
May 28, 2009, 2:19 am
Filed under: branding, community services | Tags: ,
flickr photo courtesy of Tanpopo-Himawari

flickr photo courtesy of Tanpopo-Himawari

A few weeks ago, I found a box of orange Tic Tacs on my doorstop with a postcard inviting me to Elevation Church‘s opening service in Uptown. It struck me as unusually contemporary graphic design for a religion.  I finally got around to checking it out online today, and I was surprised at how tightly branded this organization is.

High-fidelity production is not new to progressive religions, particularly in the hometown of Charlotte’s native son, Billy Graham.  What makes Elevation stand out (and apparently successful, noted as the second-fastest growing church in the US,) is its appeal to a more Web 2.0 clientele, complete with blogs and podcasts and GenY personality.

Regardless of your religious affiliation, you have to be impressed by Elevation’s marketing savvy.  Even the pastor’s reading list seems straight out of a FastCompany issue.  If anyone has been to any of their services, I’d love to hear an unbiased review on whether or not they deliver on the identity they present online.

Speed Street and Lateral Thinking by Nheeda Enriquez
May 25, 2009, 8:40 pm
Filed under: branding, sports | Tags: ,

Last weekend was the annual marketing extravaganza known as Speed Street, the NASCAR-themed street fair in the heart of Uptown Charlotte.  For 3 days, racing sponsors offer their wares, live music and and autograph sessions for their spokesdrivers.  As a designer for Ingersoll Rand in a former life, the NASCAR promotions were natural…all the pit crews use IR’s tire tools.  But there are plenty of sponsors that require a little more lateral thinking when it comes to tying them to their brands to the racing theme.


I caught a glimpse of the General Mills display (primarily Cheerios and Hamburger Helper) who were giving away product samples and hosting a Chex “most popular driver” contest.  They start to make the connection of families and moms by promoting a blog (who isn’t even a mom, but at least follows the sport.)  But what other promotions could you tie in to relate to ‘moms on the go,’ beyond having Clint Bowyer wear the Hamburger Helper hand?  GoGurt go-karts?  A race to cook the fastest dinner with Hamburger Helper?   Forcing the two seemingly unrelated brands offer a topic for a fun brainstorm session.