The suggestion box goes digital: Whack a mole or share a smile

IMG_0530Nothing beats some pure, unfiltered feedback.

So I had to smile, share a smile, and go back and take a picture with my iPhone when I saw the 2015 version of a suggestion box in a financial institution’s lobby the other day. It cuts right to the chase: either they made you smile or they made you frown. The customer votes by whacking the button on their way out the door.

Businesses will do well to remember the customer is always boss. So whatever you can do to keep lines of communication open with your boss is a good thing.

Whether it’s the “Happy or Not” service buttons or a more comprehensive survey, market research (perhaps with the help of Riger?), in all forms, is very helpful. Use it to stay customer focused, understand customer needs and get service right.

Written by:

Steve Johnson, Managing Partner

A fun AND healthy event: too much to ask?


This will not be a popular post. It does not represent the views of The Management. But it is my opinion.

I did not enjoy The Color Run. Gasp! There, I said it.

Billed as “the happiest 5k on the planet,” this event is the run/walk where participants get sprayed (pelted is more like it) with fine, dust-like, rainbow-hued powders while running/walking a 5k course. Colorful, yes. Fun, meh. Healthy, I think not.

For years I have dabbled in 5ks and even used to compete for running PRs (personal records) before getting too out of shape to run, er jog, for anything but fun. I remember a guy watching one of those 5ks saying, “I don’t need to run to prove anything anymore,” and I thought he was a grouchy old man. He was. I am not.

It’s just that in today’s society’s zeal to make everything “fun,” we have turned 5ks into a competition in gimmickry. Mud runs, dirty girl runs, obstacle course runs, inflatables runs, and yes color runs may get a few more people to try a 5k. That’s a good thing. I’m in marketing. I get it. It may even raise a few more dollars for the cause of the day. But trying to improve one’s health, or happiness for that matter, by simultaneously running and breathing in stardust does not make a lot of sense to me. Like many of my co-fun-runners, I found myself covering my mouth and nose with my t-shirt and the headband provided.

With all the airborne pollutants and allergens we face already, do we really need to spray one other with party-time glitter particulates while we run in the name of “fun,” gasping to the finish line?

This grouchy young man says, no, thanks! Me, I’m trying my hand at swimming the swim leg of a relay triathlon this summer. Jeepers, I hope I don’t get Giardia from that nice, pure clean lake water.

How about you? Let’s hear the counterpoint. I know most of my family and friends thought the Color Run was a blast.

Written by Steve Johnson, Managing Partner

Rebranding a Local Legend


When an institution with the history and stature of Corning Museum of Glass sets out to change its identity and add a new wing, simultaneously, it is not something to be taken lightly.

It is something to behold. And, of course, it’s always interesting to learn more about branding.

CMOG’s new addition and brand were on magnificent display when we visited with Rob Cassetti, senior director of creative services and Yvette Sterbenk, senior manager of communications, at our Finger Lakes PRSA meeting at the museum in Corning, NY.

Riger has always espoused to our clients, “Your brand is a promise.” In CMOG’s case, they have stayed true to their brand promise of leading visitors to see glass in a new light. In fact the new tagline to go with the clean and stylish new addition is: “New Space, New Light.”

The new space is, to my eye, a brave new light: both inviting and futuristic. One tour guest remarked the conference room reminded him of the movie “Contact.” I had to agree it felt like we could be strapped in and hurdled into outer space at any moment.

According to Cassetti, the overall aesthetic was driven by a desire to use black and white as the backdrop and allow the museum art (glass creations), gift shop items, or café food to provide the color. It works. The glass pieces pop!

So if you’re getting the image in your head that the new space looks a little like an Apple store, you’re not far off. Bright white is everywhere. Except the demonstration area. In a deft homage to the tradition of glass blowing, the demonstration amphitheater is all black. We learned many of the designers of the artwork found in today’s museum cut their teeth in the Steuben Glass factory, the precise location of the new demo room. That’s a nice symmetry, good PR, and an effective connector of generations for a place that’s been making glass for over 150 years. Besides, an orange flame looks really cool against a black background.

As for the logo design, it was a labor of love, according to Cassetti and Sterbenk. Their team did the research, knew what they liked, and hired three different designers to get them where they needed to be. The result is a new typeface, black-and-white motif that works well in both positive and negative, a squared-off stacked logo and a linear (unstacked) version for applications where the block logo won’t work. Square but unboxed, it’s clean and elegant, and its simple, powerful design communicates that creativity should not be put in a box. This logo shouldn’t either. What it should do is show off Corning glass in a favorable light for generations to come.

Kudos to Corning Museum of Glass. May your new light burn brightly and shine clearly for another 150 years.

Written by Steve Johnson, Managing Partner

The business of banking in America is… business banking.


If 75% of a community bank’s revenue comes from small business customers, why not target more marketing at small businesses? Why not indeed. Marketing can and should support business banking. Here’s a handful of sure-fire ways to do it, along with a little candy.

* Allocate enough marketing resources to more closely align with that 75% revenue figure.

* Make sure relationship managers (RMs) are all-star performers, and empower them to succeed.

* Recognize what drives customers’ perceptions of an all-star performance. Companies asked to rate their banker (RM), say overwhelmingly that, “promptly follows up on my requests” is their number one criterion. Make sure RMs say what they’ll do and do what they say. Simple, yes. Easy, no.

* Develop expertise in the customer’s industry. Again, the RMs and their team members should not only learn the customer’s business, but also become known in that industry. They need to be seen by industry insiders as people who “get it done” and who are quoted in the press as experts in their industry. Again, not easy. But what a great way to break free from the pinstriped herd.

* Position the business banker as a trusted advisor within small business owners’ “circles of influence.” Yes, that means sowing referral seeds with business attorneys and accountants. But even more importantly, the RM wants to bring into the circle other business owners, peers of their customers, and friends and colleagues who also manage businesses. Becoming known as a problem solver for companies making tough decisions is the best single way for the RM to be seen as the go-to trusted advisor. The key is to make all those customers potential referrers of new customers to the bank—to have those folks want to help their friends and associates by recommending the bank to them. A testimonial, such as, “Bank B works for me; I think you should see what they can do for you,” is best delivered and well received by a peer or friend who’s walked a mile in a business owner’s shoes.


Last but not least, be sure to sweeten the deal by offering the business customer an incentive/reward for their personal business. Studies show that customer retention (sometimes called “stickiness”) and profitability rise dramatically when the bank holds both the business and personal banking relationships.


Sweet and sticky. Like candy. Who doesn’t like candy?


Written by Steve Johnson, Managing Partner

Note: Some of this material comes from the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA),via Riger’s membership in the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As).  

Coming soon: your highly efficient, safer, more accurate, more engaged future


In the next 10 to 25 years, your car will get safer. Clothes might actually fit. Baseball will be a richer experience (not just for players). And you may work at several “micro-jobs,” perfectly matched to your skills and interests, rather than one full-time job.

That’s the message Kevin Maney, Binghamton native, Binghamton University alumnus, award-winning USA TODAY and NEWSWEEK journalist, author and futurist brought back to a hometown crowd this spring as keynote speaker at BU’s Innovation Day 2015.

If you haven’t heard—thanks to the likes of Google, Tesla and other innovators—cars may become largely autonomous, driving themselves at the behest of their owner. One can imagine, as Maney does, human-steered cars becoming an anachronism. People will store a 2015 roadster in the garage much like they used to keep a horse in the barn. “Going for a ride will be something rich people do on the weekend,” Maney mused.

How about clothes and those pesky inconsistent sizing problems? Technology has a fix for that, too! Software developers at True Fit, and companies developing body-scanning devices, are all over it. They’ll store your specific body type and size data in the cloud, and all you’ll need to do is scan the tag on an article of clothing to get an answer back: either “yes, that’ll fit you” or “no way, Jose, lose another 10 pounds.” Well, something like that.

Would you like a fourth dimension with your live sports action? As Maney rightly points out, baseball was the perfect sport for radio and its “theater of the mind.” Football has been born and bred for TV. Now enter the Data Era, and NYU scientist Claudio Silva, presenting real-time visualizations of millions of data points per game. Voila, it’s Baseball 4D! Imagine going to your favorite MLB team’s game, donning a pair of Google glasses, and seeing so much more than just what your eyes can take in on their own. The Data Era has the power to change the way fans will interact with and appreciate all of their favorite sports.

RecruitiFi is rethinking the way job recruitment will happen. As Uber revolutionizes transit; Airbnb lodging; and Quirky the previously labor-intensive art of invention patenting; RecruitiFi is modifying the way you’ll think about and do the things you used to always think about and do the same old way. Visiting NYC? You used to think cab and hotel. Now you might try crowdsourcing options such as Uber for a ride and Airbnb for a room. Likewise, RecruitiFi is essentially a 1:1 matchmaking service that brings together job seekers with those who know about an available job—all in a simple, intuitive way that makes anyone and everyone a recruiter.

By 2050, if not much sooner, you will increasingly enjoy these kinds of innovatively safe and efficient travel, clothing, recreation, and employment options—all at your fingertips.

Sound good to you?

Written by:

Steve Johnson, Managing Partner

Love, Marriage, and a Baby Carriage: Rockin’ in the U.S.A.

familyWe hear demographic facts and figures every day. Sometimes we grow numb to them as they fly by. But I heard one this week that made me stop cold.

Fact: 40% of all children born in America are born outside of marriage. For African-American children, it’s 70%.

What? When did that happen? How can this be?

According to BU Forum guest speaker, Dr. Mitch Pearlstein, founder and president of think tank the Center of the American Experiment, it’s been happening gradually and getting worse every year. His talk was titled “Broken Bonds: What Family Fragmentation Means to America’s Future.”

In the mid-1970s, respected Senator and renowned sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan noted that 23% of all American children were born out of wedlock, and that fact was one of the biggest socioeconomic problems this country faced. Just 40 years later, the unmarried-birth rate has nearly doubled.

Dr. Pearlstein calls it “family fragmentation.” As marketers and public relations professionals, it’s a trend we should take seriously. Why? Two reasons, I’d say:

  • This is a demographic trend and is not going to change overnight, so it affects what and how we communicate right now, and
  • We might want to think about how we, in our roles as communicators, can be part of the solution and not aggravate the problem even more.

While the divorce rate has come down in recent years, Dr. Pearlstein says that we as a society still don’t focus enough on — we don’t communicate enough about — the institution of marriage. Politicians have always loved to talk about motherhood. And today the rhetoric is all about absentee fathers. But what about marriage? Our media and our messaging gush about romantic love and pile on the happy-ever-after imagery. But we don’t talk about the reality of putting another person’s interests first and making a committed relationship work over time. Who suffers? The children, who end up with a mommy- or daddy-sized hole in their heart and soul, that’s who. Many single Moms and Dads do heroic work raising kids—don’t take this as a criticism of them by any means. But what used to be the exception is rapidly becoming the rule.

Dr. Pearlstein, while not claiming to have any easy answers, pointed to some rays of hope in what I’ll call three E’s:

  • Empathy — The division between classes won’t get better if privileged people (those in the positions of power to change policy) don’t have any empathy for the poor or incarcerated. The “top third” of society need to get a clue about the other 67% of their neighbors.
  • Education — Statistics are very clear that women with bachelor’s degrees overwhelmingly do not have babies out of wedlock. Education changes lives.
  • Elroy — Remember him — the son of George and Jane Jetson? Elroy may have been Boy Wonder of the Future back in the ‘70s, but if you haven’t followed the news lately—boys are doing poorly and falling behind. According to Dr. Pearlstein, we need to put some serious focus back on boys’ education, well-being, and mentoring, and maybe then our nation can begin to reverse, or at least slow down, the family fragmentation equation.

On the good-news side of the ledger, along with declining divorce rates, we’ve been seeing a dramatic decrease in teenage birth rates in the U.S. This is a healthy trend, and Dr. Pearlstein gives some of the credit to reality TV shows like MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” which he himself figured would send a message of promiscuity and would increase teenage birth rates. Instead, it’s done just the opposite. He was happy to be wrong and humbly noted that show and other media have many kids “scared straight” on the very real issue of teenage pregnancy.

Dr. Pearlstein closed his remarks by asking his audience two of the same questions he asked his research subjects: “What will America look like when you draw your last breath? What would you like it to look like?”

They’re questions worth pondering, don’t you think?

Written by:

Steve Johnson, Managing Partner

Glen Campbell Raises Public Awareness of Alzheimer’s


Can anything good come from one family’s ordeal with this horrible disease?

When the man is Glen Campbell, how about an awareness-raising, goosebump-inducing song, farewell tour, and movie about his life and legacy?

Country music singer, songwriter, session guitarist for the Beach Boys, and TV star Glen Campbell has Alzheimer’s. But he did not let the disease define him or even slow him down while this incredible tour and film were being produced. Instead, he and his family did something noble so others would learn more about the disease. If you haven’t heard, the new documentary film about Glen’s farewell tour comes out this fall. It’s called “I’ll Be Me.”

Thanks to an invite from United Methodist Homes (UMH), I was fortunate enough to see a screening of the movie, which UMH hosted at the Endicott Performing Arts Center (EPAC) on a mid-winter Wednesday night. Was I looking forward after a full day of work to seeing what I thought would be a depressing movie? No, I was not. But once the lights went down and the music started, I could tell this was a movie with a message and one I would not soon forget. That is, I hope not.

Alzheimer’s is expected to become THE disease of the baby boomer generation. I will spare you the details of this mind-robbing scourge because you probably know someone with it or have at least heard about it. In the film, it is at once both painful to watch Glen struggle with memory loss and uplifting to see him continue to soldier on and perform his music with joy and remarkable prowess. It is also heart warming to see his family and friends rally around him. Despite not being able to summon the name of the daughter performing with him right next to him on stage, Glen and Ashley Campbell proceed to bring the house down dueling on their respective guitar and banjo. It is moving.

Interviews ranging from U2, Bruce Sringsteen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Brad Paisley, Kathy Mattea and John Cash, Jr., from Vince Gill and Steve Martin to John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Bill Clinton, all share an admiration for Glen, his heroic wife Kim, and the legacy they are leaving behind by doing this farewell tour and making this documentary to help destigmatize Alzheimer’s and hasten the search for a cure.

Watch for the movie in theaters this fall: “I’ll Be Me.” The Grammy-winning single—available for free at — is: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” Even if you’re not a fan of country music, you won’t be disappointed.

Written by:

Steve Johnson, Managing Partner

Note: United Methodist Homes specializes in Adult Care, Assisted Living, and Memory Care at campuses located in Binghamton and Johnson City, NY and Pittston and Tunkhannock, PA.