Posts Tagged ‘New media’

Rock n’ Roll…and Water?

Music festivals are now a big thing in the United States. Consequently, outdoor brands are hard at work to be involved…with sponsorhip dollars, booths and the resulting exposure to the large crowds and media. After reviewing consumer comments about the festivals we’ve uncovered a problem; water, particularly the availability and price of water at the festivals.

In this Channel Signal blog we highlight the 3 best festivals and the 3 worst.


AUSTIN CITY LIMITS – A three-day music festival in the fall in Austin, TX. About 75,000 people go each day with an average of 225,000 over the three-day stretch. Camelbak is the water sponsor for this event.

What is Allowed:
• Two factory-sealed water bottles up to 1litre.
• Empty plastic or aluminum bottles allowed
• Empty Camelbak allowed
• Ice – in a soft cooler or Camelbak
• No glass bottles

Comments from Festival-goers:
“There are several complimentary water filling stations around the park.” –Joseph F.
“My Pros: Filtered water stations from Camelbak – bring your empty water bottle to fill up for free.” – Debora L.
“There are clean, filtered fountains so you can bring your empty water bottle and have it refilled.”
“It was very convenient and well run, and the water was abundant, and there was just a plethora of water available to the thirsty, thirsty masses. The lines moved quickly, and the hydration personnel were very accommodating to all receptacles.” – Nate S.

LOLLAPALOOZA – A three-day music festival in Grant Park, Chicago, held in late summer. 90,000 people per day and 270,000 over the three-day weekend. Camelbak is also the water sponsor for this event.

What is Allowed:
• Two factory sealed water bottles up to 1litre.
• Empty Camelbaks and Camelbak bottles (or any other branded or non-branded hydration system and reusable plastic bottles”)
• Free Camelbak water fountains and misting tents

Comments from Festival-goers:
“I LOVE that they offer water filling stations free of charge.” –Stacy M.
“Abundant water refilling stations.” – Kevin V.
“I had the following…empty water bottle (water stations throughout the park for you to refill).” – Roseanne S.

BONNAROOBonnaroo is a four-day summer music festival in Manchester, TN. Many festival-goers camp out for the length of the festival. Unlike many of the other city festivals, it is held in a 700-acre cow pasture. Bonnaroo sees about 80,000 people per day and 320,000 over the four days.

What is Allowed:
• Camelbaks, plastic and aluminum bottles allowed
• Factory sealed water bottles allowed
• Water fountains available (all running water is filtered and meets Tennessee standards)
• Has always offered free water from wells on the grounds
• Bottled water can cost upwards of $4 from certain vendors.
• $7 showers
• Not water-related, but Bonnaroo offers free air-conditioned movie tents

Comments from Festival-goers:
“Water stations were easy to find and relatively quick to use. You could find one easily, whenever you needed to refill your water bottle, and the water tasted fine and looked clean.” – Heather N.
“I just toted a refillable BPA-free bottle. There are free water bottle fill up stations. This year I’m bringing a Camelbak (you want one! They were everywhere last year).” – Deborah R.
“Bonnarroo is a magical time of year when you gather up your glow sticks, your most beat up pair of TOMS, and the most reliable Camelbak you can find and go primitive with 80K of the best friends you’ve never met.” – Jennifer P.



How They Need to Improve: While these festivals do have some access to water, they do not have it readily available, nor do they handle it as efficiently as the top three. Fewer water stations means long lines and potentially dangerous situations.

VANS WARPED TOUR – Our research indicates there are Sigg Water Stations. However, the information is sketchy about how many stations, which calls into question the availability of water. Reports indicate that in 2010 some vendors were charging up to $10 a bottle for water. Since 2011 it seems that the Warped Tour is charging $3 a bottle at the commercial stations.  After a death at the Kansas City stop, VANS stated that they could not control the price of water and therefore, could not be responsible.

What is Allowed:

• One sealed water bottle
• SIGG water and misting stations available
• Slip ‘n’ Slide (this is where festival goeers run and slide/dive on water tarps.)

Comments from Festival-goers:

Well it’s about damn time the water was cheaper. And it only took a guy dying of heat storke. Hmm.” –Dan W.
“$5 for water was just outrageous.” –Autumn S.
“It was awful hot last year and the cost of water was ridiculous.” –Tina T.

COACHELLA – A music and arts festival held annually in Indio, CA. It sees a total of 180,000 people over the two three-day weekends.

Lack of water stations and water fountains means long lines and that has caused tension at the festival.

What is Allowed:

• Empty Camelbaks allowed
• Empty plastic refillable water bottles allowed
• No outside food and/or drinks
• Water – $2 a bottle (same price since 1999).
• Water fountains available
• N0 metal or glass bottles

Comments of the Festival-goers from the coachella forum:

“You can bring as much water into the campground as you want, but not into the venue. Last year even though the temperatures were pretty mild (low-90s), the line for the one fill-it-yourself water station were ridiculous. I plan to just buy water when I’m thirsty.”

“Im gonna have to go ahead and say that this might be the lamest thing about Coachella.

At Bonnaroo there are plenty fill stations throughout the camping area and the concert area for you to fill your Camelbaks with. They would make you poor it out upon entering the gates but right inside you can fill your Camelbak up. And they had tons of sinks and stuff for you to fill water bottles and wash up at.

If there is anything that should be readily available at all times at a festival, especially being in a desert, is water.”
“I mean I’m not complaining about $2 a bottle but it’s kind of a necessity at least have a station or two by Main.”
“The lack of refill program means a couple hundred thousand extra water bottle will be used that weekend. Very silly. If the crowd is as big as last year, we’ll be swimming in discarded water bottles.”

SASQUATCH – A 3-4 day (depending on the year) music festival held on Memorial Day weekend in George, WA. It sees about 25,000 people a year for a total of 75-100,000 over the weekend.

What is Allowed:
• One 20oz. factory-sealed water bottle
• No mention of refill options. We could not find any evidence of water stations.
• The only water options we could find are the sinks outside of the toilet stations.

Comments from Festival-goers:
“What was unforgivable was the limiting of access to free water. In the past, there were several key locations to get water. This year, you could get water from sinks outside the bathroom. That water was heavily chlorinated, warm and difficult to get to due to the lines of people washing their hands.” – Tony V.

“When water refill stations break, they will post signs proclaiming erroneously that water being distributed from the hand washing spigots is non-potable…There is no way you are walking half the festival grounds up and down inclines to fill up bottles from an unbroken water refill station.” – Edwin P.

“The water stations did not make any sense. They expect you to fill up your bottle and stay hydrated while they lock you in the venue without the option to leave for more than 10 hours a day, and they have three water stations with ridiculous lines and one of the stations went ‘Out of Order.’ Seriously, not providing enough water is DANGEROUS!” – Patricia M.

Channel Signal believes this consumer research calls into question the idea of treating water as a commodity. We applaud the water companies who supply a substantial number of stations, provide free water, and keep the lines moving. The festivals who believe water is not their responsibility are courting disaster. Just as restrooms are essential, so is water.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

How Specialty Retailers and Small Brands Can Enlist Influencers

I just got off the phone with a excellent journalist in the outdoor recreational markets. He is writing an article about how specialty retail and smaller brands can get traction in the social media space.  He is writing it for the Outdoor Industry Association Newsletter called WebNews, and I encourage you to look for it. The general feeling in the industry, apparently, is that specialty retail and the smaller brands are at a disadvantage compared to the larger retailers and brands when it comes to engaging with the likes of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

I don’t agree with that assumption, but we will stay focused here.

Small specialty retail is, by definition, local or regional. So, they should focus on the local and organic way of doing things. And that means attract the local athletes that have local influence. And that means these folks show up at the local races and events, compete and generally do well. They are the “go to” people locally when consumers have questions about bikes, hiking shoes, climbing gear…you get the idea. Now, if these people have a blog, are on twitter, or publish in some other way…all the better.

The focus for specialty must be on local…local events, local athletes and creating local buzz.

Now, for the smaller brands. They should attract Influencers, but here is the criteria at Channel Signal. If a person:

1. Publishes

2. Has substantial Followers or Friends

3. And is Authentic, meaning that his/her followers are authentic and the content is wanted/needed…

then these are true Influencers. Now, who else are Influencers. Retail salespeople. Published media. And national blogs. Why? Because  consumer traffic is either driven to them, in the case of retail salespeople, or people read them because they are in big daily or weekly publications.

Now, both specialty retail and small brands can attract Influencers by publishing useful, interesting content. And that means “how to” pieces on being better at road biking, mtn. biking, climbing, hiking, trail running, minimalist running…and the list goes on. Consumers are excited. They want to learn. They want the best equipment they can afford. And they want guidance.

Retail specialty can do all of these things through their web sites, by publishing content that appeals to consumers (and therefore) to Influencers…and is then picked up by Influencers and gets widely distributed within the region. And it drives consumers into the store.

Small brands must also publish great content, attract genuine Influencers, engage them by asking questions about how to improve the content, how to get better, and how they would like to engage with your brand. Do not try to sell them. Repeat: do not try to sell them.

So, that’s my two cents on Influencers. Have much more to write, but that should do it for now.

Oh, and one more thing. I too want to throw my hat into the ring, already crowded with every imaginable politician, and proclaim that I too believe that Moms work really hard.

Peace and out.


Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

Brands are Bit Players in Consumer Storylines


I put Walt Disney on top of this blog because he understood, more than anyone, that the customers were the kings and queens and that his cast members were there to serve them. Brands, many brands, seem to have gotten far from this thinking.

It seems that most companies believe in the standard form of branding, meaning telling a brand story and believing consumers will adapt it. Consumers will follow the brand because the brand has positioned itself as being a part of the momentum, the cool, the lifestyle. Huh, uh. Frankly, it has never really been that way.

It is the other way around. Brands are adopted by consumers, and only if consumers like the product, what the brand stands for, and that it FITS  INTO THEIR LIFESTYLE.

As Channel Signal collects more and more consumer feedback for companies, it is becoming apparent that it is all about consumers and their lives. It has very little to do with brands, even the powerful brands.

The best that brands can do? Build great product. Create events that consumers participate in. Be known for doing good deeds. Do business responsibly. And then hope that the brand is adopted into a consumer storyline.

The storylines are in every tweet, blog, consumer review, pinterest post…everything.

. A brand is powerful when it is a role player. Egoless. Humble. Only there to help

Their products are role players. Grassroots events are role players. Athletes are role players. Advertising should be built around the real stars.

Consumers are the kings and queens…now, more than ever.

And they  will choose who is and isn’t a part of their lives.

Brands would do well to stop trying to sell into a consumer’s life, stop telling them what they should be and begin to understand what they are.

And then build product to satisfy that need.

Because in the end, doesn’t a great salesman, work to learn the true needs and wants of a prospect?






Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

The Ever Increasing Roar of the Crowd

The public is now being heard loud and clear. And it won’t stop.

On the world stage the cry for freedom is being heard in Syria. It has been somewhat realized in Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria. Syrians seem to believe that the power of guns displayed by the the Assad regime won’t win the battle. The revolutionaries will keep fighting and throwing bodies into the battle. As Ho Chi Ming once famously said, “ You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win.”

And the videos and tweets keep coming. From cell phones, they are telling the story of the struggle. Real. Raw.

Here’s a great graph of the Arab Spring Revolution. The Guardian Graph

And now back to the corporate world. Things aren’t going so well for companies who make promises and don’t keep them, create new pricing, back the wrong horse or change the rules in midstream. I have included a great piece from Mashable about the recent troubles companies have had when they ignored the publishing power of the consumer. Coke. Go Daddy and The Bank of America heard the roar, ignored it, and lived to regret it.

Consumers are judging brands on products, brand performance, brand promises, advertising, grass roots events…everything. This isn’t just social media anymore. Think of this as Consumer Sentiment, and they have opinions on everything a brand is doing.

Consumers don’t believe brands just “make products” anymore. That is because brands have come out with sustainability studies, environmental stances, corporate opinions on the behavior of entertainers (think Limbaugh), and have backed legislation they believe is good for themselves and their industries.

It’s a new world. And brands are being held responsible for their products, actions and opinions.

Here are some examples of corporate stumbles in this Mashable Article.


Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

Flying Blind

When I first started in the outdoor recreational business, I remember marketing directors saying how much they wished they could measure the training videos we were making and the advertising they were launching. Well, in those days, you couldn’t and that was that.

However, almost every part of a brand’s performance in the marketplace can now be measured. And consumers (the critical component) are the ones judging the brands.

I’m not just talking about social media. I’m talking about a brand’s advertising, print, radio, television, grass roots events and customer reviews. Consumers are judging everything.

And I can hear it now from some businesses, “Well, not everyone is online…and it’s not really that simple.”

Here are the facts.

77.3% of Americans are online.  239,890,000- United Nations Communications & Technology 

72.6% of these Americans, 14 & older, bought online in 2011,  148,000,000.-eMarketer 

58% of Americans research online before buying-Pew

23% of these Americans research online every day-Pew

The vast majority of Americans are online. They are buying. They are doing research about your brand. And they are publishing their actions and opinions.

A company should be building a feedback loop into America. This information is great for middle management. The data proves-out successful programs and helps kill unsuccessful ones.

And a company should be building this “voice of the consumer” information into senior management reports.

Then senior management can have a very clear snapshot of what is working and isn’t working with respect to product, advertising, marketing initiatives and public relations efforts.

Don’t have this information?

Then all of the company’s managers should take a moment, put on blindfolds and ear plugs, and walk into a room filled with your potential customers. Say….a retail store.

Don’t hear much? Don’t see much?

I wonder why.


Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

Breaking Through the Clutter

Bots(robots), affiliate marketing sites, discount sites and link farms are all making the conversation very crowded for brands trying to get their message heard online. All the entities have one purpose and that is to sell product. Some of it is discounted. Some of it isn’t. Some are names of sites you have never heard of, and some are names like Amazon.

Recently, we were asked by a leading brand in the outdoor and ski markets to search for it and see what we find. Well, it wasn’t pretty. Channel Signal search engines, which have blacklisted over 10,000 authors and sites, still came up with a ton of junk surrounding this brand.

Why? Because the company had not delivered good online content and sales pitches (selling primarily discounted product) had taken  over the brand’s identity.

We searched Twitter…could barely find any content about the actual brand.
Blogs…junk everywhere.
YouTube…better content here.
Online traditional media…not much.

To be clear, all of this sales noise is not all bad. A retailer, Amazon, posted 1,900 customer review ratings in the past year on a product produced by the brand with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Now, if you figure 20 percent of the customers who bought from Amazon wrote a review, that means about 10,000 sales in one year. Not bad from the online retailer.

However, the brand is being drowned out by the sales pitches. Can’t really call it noise because it does move product.

What to do?

First a brand must sharpen its identity online. Advertise to your target market about where to go…on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, your blogs, etc. In short, drive consumers to where you want them to go for your content. Then…

Fill these places with good content. Not content that sells stuff, but content that educates consumers. How to layer? Why a hat is important. Goggles and what they can do for you. Breathable socks. And make this information directly applicable to your product lines.

And then, build online relationships with your retailer partners.

1. Support online retailers with content they can push out and reprint on their own sites.

2. Train retailers to understand how to do things like embed a YouTube video, update their blog and utilize basic search engine optimization techniques.

3. License content correctly for reprinting/republishing through retailers with photographers, writers, video producers.

By building a grassroots content strategy through retail partners, brands can deliver better content online, serve their customers and drive sales with key accounts.

So, break out of the noise by building your content and building your partnerships with retailers.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

It Is Still Your Gut



Recently, while talking with executives about social media, I got three different messages from them:

1. I get it and we are building our social media presence. 

2. I don’t get it and until somebody shows me the money, I’m not gonna get it. 

3.  I know that we need to get on top of the social media thing, but I’m not sure if it will do us any good. 


Ok. Here is what social media data can do.

1. With the proper analysis, it  provides insight and justification for your major decisions.

2. It gives you the truth. And remember, every post, whether good or bad, has a good deal of truth to it.

And your “truth” and their ”truth” may be completely different. Not the same picture at all.

3. It gives real-time feedback on the performance of your products.

4. It provides trending information, which will be a leading contributor to upcoming sales forecasts.


Here are some things that data cannot do:

1. It can not make decisions for you.

2. It should not be  manipulated. If it is, it will be at great risk to your company and your career.

3. It cannot be your friend. When data says the momentum is good, it doesn’t care. When momentum is bad, it doesn’t care.

4. It cannot be ignored. Data is direct from are your customers, your life-blood. Ignore them and you ignore the performance reviews of your products. It is the beginning of the end for your company in the 21st century.


I say these things because recently there has been too much emphasis on both the power of social media and the weakness of social media. Both are true.


Social Media Reporting becomes a competitive weapon when you:

1. measure correctly

2. analyze

3. deliver the data in a way that senior managers can understand and compare to performance in other sectors of the enterprise.

And when data is delivered this way, it is still your gut, but with more ammunition.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

Channel Management


Companies in the sporting goods business are now coming out with their growth plans, many of them 3 years or more. These plans are aggressive and this signals a change in the landscape. For at least ten years the sporting goods business has been consolidating. This means that stock holders and stake holders want healthy and sustained growth from the new larger company.  And it’s up to senior management to plot that growth.

Here’s the challenge.

Where will that growth come from? The traditional sales channels are specialty retail, large specialty retail (REI, EMS, Dicks, Cabela’s,etc.), and huge retail (Walmart).

Specialty retail is averaging growth of between 3-5% over a six year period ending at the beginning of 2010.  Large specialty and the big retailers are growing, on average, in the area of 8-10%. These numbers won’t change much. It takes a lot for any of these channels to plan for the explosive growth demanded by the brands. A lot of money will be needed for expansion, inventory and salespeople.

Brands realize that traditional retail can’t supply the lion’s share of the growth, unless many of the brands go to the very big boxes and most brands still believe that Walmart will dilute the authenticity of their product offerings.

The explosive growth will come from two relatively new channels, branded stores and online sales. Online sales have grown, on average, about 20% a year in the last 4 years.

New Balance, Nike, Columbia, The North Face, Merrell, Icebreaker, Marmot, and many others, have announced they will be opening retail stores across the country. Why? Because they can offer wider selections and fulfill inventory faster, which means a bigger upside.

Same thing with the Online Sales Channel, aka, the company web store. Brands are selling merchandise at full price, can replenish inventory instantly, and offer the entire collection. There is a lot of profit margin here.

So, online sales and branded retail stores will be  joining the landscape of Channel Management.

Here’s Channel Signal’s guess as to how Brand’s will position the Channels.

  • specialty retail will be used to create momentum and maintain authenticity.
  • large retail…less of the same but bigger numbers for the brands.
  • Walmart, Kmart, etc…look for the brands to open this channel in limited amounts to move merchandise that is lower end. Numbers are good here.
  • Branded stores…good margins, good selection and success will fuel more stores across the country.
  • Online stores… great margins, great selection, and more money pumped into the web site to make it more of a shopping experience.

One thing we haven’t addressed and that is social media. My guess, the brands will find ways to build this channel as a sales channel or use it to drive traffic to the other sales channels.

Channel management will be critical moving into the future. And so will tracking what channels are generating the buzz and how that translates into profit.

Thanks to Leisure Trends for the growth stats.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

Consumers Buy from Cause-Related Companies


Our last article was about how companies are building traffic by creating hashtag Twitter accounts, and driving traffic to them by offering discounted products. I feel this doesn’t work and builds no value. We left off with…be known for something.

Well, this is supported by a new Environmental Leader article that puts forth research that 83% of consumer want to buy from companies adapting causes that improve the quality of life. This information was uncovered in the Cone Cause Evolution Study just released.


As Channel Signal gets deeper into measuring the social media efforts of its customers we are becoming more aware of what works and what doesn’t. And what works is creating social media events and programs that improve lives. What doesn’t is when companies use social media as a distribution channel to sell product.

Let’s go back to the tired old theme of social media being like a cocktail party. Well, it isn’t. Unless you want to attend a cocktail party with 10 million people, and your 100 friends are scattered throughout the mass of humanity. And you are relieved when you see someone you know because you can have a conversation: local politics, friends, and upcoming events.

However, if your company is known for something, a cause close to the hearts of many, now you have strangers coming up to you and wanting to talk about the popular initiative. Now, the cocktail party is less intimidating and much more welcoming. Now, there is a common thread of conversation that you helped create.

All  reports indicate that successful cause-marketing in social media starts and ends with getting the employees on board. They, in turn, reach out to their respective networks and the viral power starts to generate momentum. However, the corporate cause and effort must be real. Here is one the the experts, Simon Isaacs who leads the cause-marketing division for ignition Inc and works with major corporate clients like  Coca Cola and nonprofit brands like United Nations Foundation. He talks about what not to do in an interview with Rachael Chong, a respected blogger.


“Here are five things consumers need to watch out for:

  1. Fluffy Language: Words like eco-friendly or “good for you”, which fail to provide any specific meaning to a claim
  2. Silly Pictures: Suggestive pictures to promote an unjustifiable green image, like flowers in exhaust pipes
  3. Unproven or Irrelevant Claims: Unproven sustainability claims or playing up one green or cause-related achievement of a company’s operations, while other areas are lacking
  4. Fake friends: Made-up third party endorsements and labels
  5. Just downright not credible: Promoting the social or environmental benefits of “harmful” products like cigarettes

An authentic and effective cause-marketing campaign is a win-win for the brand and the cause/nonprofit partner. To answer your first question, “winning” for the brand does not necessarily always mean direct sales. It can also be about corporate reputation, brand love or employee engagement, but it does need to connect back to the business.”

Companies who take up a cause, bring it online, give money, and devote content and people to it, do build their businesses…and in the long run that means selling more product to a growing base of loyal customers.

Next time, we address how adopting a cause creates internal momentum for a company.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

A Cause

This is a three-part series that I am writing on the importance of finding the Purpose of Your Company…the Cause. I first tackle a growing problem in social media…pumping up traffic by using the wrong tactics.

Channel Signal is picking up more and more evidence of companies building traffic by using hashtag Twitter and then incenting people to join by offering the chance for new product.

This is “discount-linking” and it doesn’t work. Companies doing this are attracting sweepstakes sites (sweepstakes bots), discount sites, link farms…all retweeting and retweeting about what?About your discounted products.

Is that what a company wants to be known for? This is like throwing a cocktail  party and advertising it by posting free drink notices in all the local dives. You’ll get a crowd all right, but you’ll have no silverware at the end of the night.

So companies are lowering the barrier to entry, incenting, and building traffic. But it is the wrong traffic. These people don’t really care about a company’s products. They won’t be having adventures in these products and then writing about them. And they won’t be telling their friends about the quality of the products and suggesting a buy. They only want to broadcast the discounts.

The upshot. These people come for the discounts, and quickly disappear when there are none.

Now, maybe one person in 30 buys a discounted product, starts hiking, loses weight, and becomes an enthusiast. Fine, but that is one out of 30. Not good odds.

At Channel Signal we have extensive filtering hooks that grab these sites and knock them out of the search. Companies should increase their value-propositions by complimenting good product with good content.

Building traffic the fast and easy way, through discounting, is not a sustainable strategy.

And be known for something.

More about that next time.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal