Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teen Recording Artist CC Miles Talks Creating Music, Inspiring Emotions & Tuning Into Your Dreams

CC Miles is a recording artist. She is an experienced songwriter. She is a performer. She spends her days shooting music videos and delivering pitch perfect songs in a recording studio that has become, to her, a very comfortable second home. She is also the star of her school play.

At 13, CC is far from your average teen. Incredibly focused on her professional goals, ambitions and passions, she has diligently honed her craft as a recording artist for more than half of her life - so long she cannot remember the very start of her love of singing, creating emotion-packed lyrics and performing before crowds large and small.

Recently, CC spoke with Consumption Conversations as part of our "Artists Spotlight" series. Every bit as engaging and memorable as the songs she creates, this young New Jersey girl shared a glimpse into her joy of singing, courageous and ambitious personal goals to build a life in music - and how inspiration from her friends, family and herself drives her to perform.

When did you know music was going to be an important part of your life? 

CC Miles: It feels like it has always been there. So much so, I can't pinpoint an exact moment.

CC, What music do you enjoy listening to most? Who are your favorite artists? 

CC Miles: My interests vary widely. I love music as old as Don McLean's "American Pie" , Billy Joel's "piano man", and John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane, yet I am a huge Taylor Swift fan. I also think one of the best artists today is Ed Sheeran, but let's not forget Pink, I just love her music. There are so many more, it is hard to list.

Where do you find the inspiration to create your lyrics? 

CC Miles: I find my inspiration in my friends, family, TV shows and movies, thank God for Netflix, and, I guess ... myself.

If you could meet any recording artist, who would it be - and why? 

CC Miles: Taylor Swift, not just because she's big right now, but because she writes all of her own songs and tells stories that touch people.

Is it more exciting to sing at a small venue, or a big venue - or doesn't it matter at all? 

CC Miles: I enjoy both, but my favorite place to perform is down the shore for my family and close friends.

What are three ways music has impacted your life? 

CC Miles: On the just kidding side, I wasn't good at soccer, so I became a singer. But seriously, there hasn't been a moment I remember it not being part of my life. Music allows me to express myself and it enables me to connect with other people. People always told me to find something you love to do and I am lucky I found it.

CC, many people, regardless of their age, encounter in their lives a defining moment. A moment when they realize something about themselves - their passions, goals and even talents. Did you have one clear and specific defining moment that help set you on your musical journey?

CC Miles: I really enjoyed singing other people's songs, but I think the big defining moment was when I decided to set a goal to write my own music.

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

CC Miles: I would like to be an artist that continues to create music that people can relate to and that inspires them.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? 

CC Miles: I would like to be a unique artist, to never forget where I come from, and be grateful for everyone who has helped me.

Who are you - right now? 

CC Miles: I am a developing artist who has learned that you have to put the time in if you wish to accomplish your goals and dreams. I am busy putting the time in.

CC, what is your favorite place in the world?

CC Miles: My favorite place in the world is down the shore, in the summer with my cousins, eating buffalo chicken dip, and talking about all the things we've done all year since we haven't seen each other since the last summer.

What is your favorite place to express your creativity - where do your lyrics come alive?

CC Miles: In my room, when it's just me...and my guitar.

CC, you have worked so hard to build the foundation for your life in music. What advice can you give to other young people who are on their own journeys toward realizing their dreams?

CC Miles: My advice would be if you really love something, and you want to get good at it, ask for and accept help and put the time in.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Inspirational Jen Croneberger Talks Awareness, Confidence & Doing What You Think You Can't

Do you know Jen Croneberger? Jen is a widely sought-after speaker for corporations, schools and universities, organizations and teams alike. She was the CEO/Founder of Excellence Training Camps, Inc. and is currently the president of JLynne Consulting Group - most of her last 10 years have been spent working with people of all ages, from all walks of life, instilling confidence and building deeper connections and awareness.

Jen was consulted by MTV’s show “MADE” as a mental skills/fear coach for one of its subjects in the Fall of 2007. She has also been interviewed on four different occasions by Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate, Channel 6 Action News and was selected by the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry as the 2009 Female Business Leader of the Year.

Recently, Jen kicked off the Pyramid Club Philadelphia's "Leadership Playbook" series, hosted by CJ DiRoma and Station Avenue Productions, a division of Asterism Group. Leadership Playbook is an ongoing series - launching out of the gates with the five-session experience led by Jen Croneberger. Leadership Playbook is an elite networking opportunity for professionals, executives and corporate leadership, focusing on leadership qualities, skills and success strategies.

Jen's motivational message has transformed the lives of many - inspiring people to believe in their own abilities. What words of wisdom are cornerstones of Jen's philosophy? Let's find out!

Jen, you are a widely sought-after speaker for corporations, schools and universities, organizations and even teams. People look to you for help and inspiration with building confidence and deeper connections and awareness. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the awesomeness - and significance - of what you bring to the lives of so many diverse people?

Jen Croneberger: I have a very relaxed way about what I do. If not, I may feel pressure :-)… Honestly though, I feel I was called to affect lives. My purpose is to deliver a message… and I believe I am just the messenger. I LOVE what I do, and am so humbled and grateful when I come home to beautiful and loving emails of gratitude. I am blessed to be able to have found my passion. I simply look at my job as one who can bring people to the mirror, it’s up to them to see what’s really there.

Tell us about The Five Words.

Jen Croneberger: The five words started about six or seven years ago in a conversation with a pro baseball player. He asked for a few words to take with him on the first day of spring training that season. I asked him why he played. He responded because he loves it. So his mantra that day became For love of the game…” The next day I gave him another that also happened to be 5 words. I decided there must be something to that. When I worked with the professional softball team shortly after that, I brought five words each game and posted them next to the door on the way out of the locker room. It stuck… That became my trademark. Every blog title is five words, every chapter title of my book also five words, every time I speak I use five words to wrap my topic around… It has become my way of focusing on something each day. A mantra is a great way to make each day really count. Mine just always happen to be five words.

For parents, there is always the hope that we are raising confident and aware young people. Any suggestions on how parents can look for indicators that their children may be having issues in these areas - particularly in the area of confidence - and how best to address any issues that may be present?

Jen Croneberger: This is a tough topic. I have found it to be very difficult to break through that confidence issue at times, and other times it seems simple. I look for a kid who doesn’t make eye contact… someone who doesn’t speak much unless spoken to. Not to be confused with just being shy or an introvert… sometimes however, the shy, quiet kids, they often suffer from low confidence or self-esteem. My mom always told me to stand up tall. I hated it. I didn’t want to stand out, and hated being tall… However, I realized quickly that so much of confidence starts physically. We can help kids start there. Ask questions. I can’t tell you how often I hear parents ask me how to find out what’s going on with their kid. I always ask this one question…. “Did you ask her/him?” And often, the answer is no. Talk to them… keep letting them know that they are always enough. They may just start to believe it.

Jen, how best would you describe yourself? Say, in five words? 

Jen Croneberger: Passionate, Loving, Aware, Brave, Authentic.

There are some people that may not realize you are a life-long athlete, having held numerous sports coaching positions, including the head softball coach at Unionville High School, assistant and head softball coach at Ursinus College and the Mental Game Coach for the (NPF) Women’s Professional Softball Team, The Philadelphia Force. How is inspiring athletes to be their best different from inspiring the masses - the executives, students, professionals, community groups? Is there a different way of captivating and motivating athletes to be more confidant - or are we really just all the same, regardless of our abilities on the fields, courts or rinks?

Jen Croneberger: I have found, from seven-year-old children to pro athletes to 65-year-old tennis players…. we all deal with the same "stuff.” Whether it’s confidence or perfectionism or fear of failure and/or success… it’s all the same stuff. And it spans from the classroom to the boardroom to the delivery room to the locker room. How we manage our emotions and fears and understand that the process is more important than the outcome, will always be present in any aspect of our lives. I believe that it is the thread that binds us all together. And it’s the inner core of who we are, whether we then spend time on a court or in a courtroom… these are concepts at the core of all human beings.

Jen, what's one of your proudest professional moments?

Jen Croneberger: Can I give you five? :-) Being given the Female Business Leader of the Year award in 2009, cutting the ribbon on my 20k sq ft training facility in 2007, Stepping foot on the TEDx stage for the first time, Being interviewed by 6ABC Action News for the first time, and holding my first book for the first time. Sorry… couldn’t pick just one that created my story.

Why do you think so many people are lacking pride in their achievements and accomplishments? Is it an issue of awareness?

Jen Croneberger: It’s an issue of perspective. #ComeTouchMySideOfTheElephant. It’s all in the way we see things. Most people see only what their minds allow them to see, and when they are lacking confidence and purpose, they see just the negative and we all know we get what we focus on. When they walk around the other side of the elephant they can see and feel totally different things. Focus on the positive we get more positive. it’s that simple.

Do you ever get emotionally drained trying to uplift and inspire others to accept and celebrate their achievements - and their unique contributions and talents?

Jen Croneberger: Yes. And if I didn’t, I would know I didn’t leave it all on the field. I give 100% of what is in my tank every where I go. If I am not exhausted when I get on the plane or hit my pillow at night, I didn’t do enough.

Jen, what is the one PRIMARY thing that stops people in their tracks, when it comes to achieving success in their goals?

Jen Croneberger: Fear in the form of doubt. Think of the 7 year old… we believed we could be and do anything. We were fearless. That is innate. We aren’t born in fear, we learn it. We don’t doubt we can walk when we fall down as a toddler, we don’t know any better… so we get up and keep moving. Then as we get older, doubt and fear take over… We start to focus on negative.

If we would just take one step in the path of where we want to go…. JUST ONE… and then tomorrow we realize we can take another. And now we are two steps toward our goal. And then the next day we add a step… and now we know we can take three, it’s life changing.

This is the Kaizen Philosophy…. consistent improvement. One step at a time until you realize you are where you wanted to go. It’s how I have started to run. If you know me, you know I have HATED to run distances over a mile all of my life…I told myself I can’t. I can’t run more than a mile... until now. How have I done it? We can do anything hard, really hard, for one minute. And then another. When I run, I run to the next telephone pole… then I tell myself I can go to the next one. When we just add one more each time, we win. JUST TAKE THE FIRST STEP. We don’t know how far we can go until we go there.

Final thought: If you could spread a message of inspiration and motivation to every person right now, what would it be - and what would you hashtag it?

Jen Croneberger: YES, you can. That thing you thought you couldn’t do. We tell ourselves stories. We say we can’t when we really just don’t know if we can. My own story has unfolded that way. Yes…. I can. And I did. #ICantToIDid

Want more Jen? 

Visit Jen on Facebook!
Visit Jen on LinkedIn!
Tweet Jen on Twitter!
Watch Jen on YouTube!

Want to know more about Leadership Playbook?

For more information about Jen's sessions, starting January 2015, with The Pyramid Club in Philadelphia's "Leadership Playbook" series, organized by Asterism Group in cooperation with Station Avenue Productions, see this press release! Leadership Playbook, hosted at the Pyramid Club, is a presentation by CJ DiRoma, President of Station Avenue Productions and Chair of the Pyramid Club Sports Committee, in conjunction with the Pyramid Club.

Leadership Playbook is an ongoing series - launching out of the gates with the five-session experience led by Jen Croneberger. Leadership Playbook is an elite networking opportunity for professionals, executives and corporate leadership, focusing on leadership qualities, skills and success strategies.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Philadelphia Artist Evan Polk Talks Art, Comedy, Motivation & That Blue Duck

Evan Polk is an artist. He's also a visionary, dreamer, philosopher, father and lover of an equally artistic and visionary blue duck named Sanchez. Evan Polk is a rising comedian and abstract artist whose varied experiences are impressive and indicative of his commitment to his crafts.

In 2012, he became the first comic to have performed stand-up live in Philadelphia’s LOVE Park.

Evan has performed stand-up at various Greater Philadelphia comedy venues, including Laff House, Helium, and Pennsylvania colleges and universities. In the Summer of 2013 Evan discovered that he had artistic talents that extended beyond the comedy stage. When his Apple iPhone broke, it forced him to do something to occupy his time at work with something other than work. He started drawing portraits on printer paper and boxes.

The result: Sanchez, The Blue Duck. Today, with Sanchez growing in popularity and Evan exploring deeper his natural artistry, Evan continues to perform stand-up in Center City Philadelphia and throughout the Greater Philadelphia Region, with opportunities to appear across the country popping up regularly. And Sanchez is taking on a life of his very own...

Evan, what is coming up for you in 2015?

Evan Polk: 2015 is looking like a good year for myself and Sanchez. We are planning on having at least four showings, celebrating the first full year of Blue Duck Vision LLC, a few collaborations and a mural installation placed in Philadelphia. I have released all of my first series of paintings and the copies are available for purchase at evanpolk.com - it's an exciting time and I am ready for more.

What motivates, inspires you - what makes you drive forward I life?

Evan Polk: What motivates me to create art work and comedy is this weird feeling and it is extremely addictive - kind of a fusion of excitement, nervousness, fear and arrogance. I want to live in that feeling for the rest of my life - that's what motivates me, Also, creating a legacy.  I do not want to die and that hyphen that separates my date of birth and my time of death on my tombstone to mean absolutely nothing. Even greater, what drive me forward in life is my kids.

Do you believe in miracles?

Evan Polk: I don't believe in miracles. I believe in divine intervention!

Evan, what is the significance of Sanchez the Blue Duck?

Evan Polk: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.

Looking out into the community, how do you think we could combat intolerance?

Evan Polk: Honestly I don't think you can battle intolerance because people are always going to have their own methods on how people should be treated. That's what this society we live in was built on the backs, sweat, blood and mistreatment of other people. It's embedded in this country so I can't honestly see it being fought.

What is your view on today's youth and hope?

Evan Polk: Terrible - my view on today's youth is absolutely terrible. Every time I look at the next generation I think sink or swim and 70 percent of them are going to sink. Especially with this instant gratification attitude that they have - meaningless. It is very troubling - for us all.

Looking positive, what charitable efforts do you want to share?

Evan Polk: I would like to help out the youth and the elderly homeless. Most of the kids in group homes and foster homes age out and have no where to go and are left with no direction. They are just thrown out on to the streets with no one, absolutely nothing and no place to go. They need guidance and the opportunity to create their own art, music, comedy, dreams, whatever - they need a chance.

Visit Evan Polk online for more on Evan...and Sanchez!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Smart Marketing: CJ DiRoma Talks Social Media, SEO, Client Personas & Visual Content Creativity

Asterism Group is a boutique marketing, creative services and event production firm founded by CJ DiRoma, an award-winning entrepreneur in the state of New Jersey. Recently, DiRoma shared her views on what makes marketing effective - and what her approach is to marketing smart for 2015.

What type and how much marketing does your company do in an average month?

We do a cross-platform approach to marketing, with a focus on online marketing and social media strategy. We use paid advertising, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media strategy to deliver our brand publishing to our target audience. We are also extremely active in regional business associations and leadership summits, affording us the opportunity to engage our regional business community by networking, and also via email campaigns. We will often fuse our online marketing, social media outreach and networking efforts to promote our own unique business events, which we host in order to build connections and create opportunities for new and existing clients.

What has been the most successful method of marketing for your company?

Asterism Group, and our top division, Station Avenue Productions, utilizes email marketing extensively, as well as content marketing. We are moving into inbound marketing to target our branded content to specific client personas. We also update our social media platforms daily and because of our grassroots regional marketing efforts and involvement, traditional word of mouth has also been consistently effective in generating new leads and client conversations.

How do you measure the success of your marketing efforts?

We measure our success on a few levels. We track our own analytics, in terms of the organic and paid SEO campaigns we are fueling. We track and measure the success of our email campaigns. Each month, we measure the number of new prospects we receive, and where in the sales and marketing stream they are originating. We get tremendous support and referrals from our existing clientele, particularly for event production in the case of our Station Avenue division.

Do you have an in-house marketing program or do you outsource?

Asterism Group is made up of three divisions, one is Consumption Marketing. We rely entirely on our own in-house marketing expertise to drive our content marketing, email marketing campaigns, event branding and promotion activities and our SEO strategies. We rely on our own graphic artists and design teams to generate visual content marketing for our content platforms and social media shares.

What advice would you have for VARs/solution providers that don’t have a regular marketing program in place?

Every business, from small businesses to large enterprises, requires a marketing plan that is scaled to their unique requirements and goals. It’s important to determine what goals you have in terms of marketing, what’s working, what haven’t you tried and what do you need to explore to build not only your brand, but also your clients. You never want to be in a position of ‘catch-up’ when it comes to your marketing efforts. You don’t want your competitors to outshine you.

Determine what your goals are with your marketing, what marketing mechanisms and tools will best help you achieve your goals and set strategy that will allow you to get your message to the right audience by leveraging online marketing, social media, content marketing, email campaigns and even uniquely presented and hosted business events. Bottom line: Do something – don’t let marketing be the one component of your business you neglect.

Learn more about Asterism Group at http://www.asterismgroup.com/.

Want more strategies and tips from CJ DiRoma, visit her on Small Business Trends!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wellness Expert Kerry Morgan Wants You To Unleash Your Goddess

Kerry Morgan is a wellness expert a New Jersey leader in yoga and health coaching for individuals, including athletes, as well as groups and corporations.

Morgan, founder of Down Dog Wellness & Health Coaching, recently announced a revolutionary day retreat to boost women’s health and wellness tools to elite energy – 21st Century Blueprint, the focus of Unleash The Goddess, a wellness retreat on Sunday, Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Borgata, Atlantic City.

The event will be a Mind, Body and Spirit ignition of the Goddess Within for participants interested in learning elite wellness secrets, as well as a great way to network with leaders in health and wellness motivation and performance. Sessions start at 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., with a poolside cocktail reception starting at 7 p.m. for attendees.

"Our soul is a powerful energy that seeks guidance and unity. Sometimes our true calling is right in front of our eyes. We need an eye opening experience to push us in the right way," shares Morgan, creator of #UnleashTheGoddess. "This is a chance for you to ride the wave to new levels of passion in daily living - unleash a celebration of your Inner Goddess to inspire, excite, and spark true passion to a path of bliss."

What more does Morgan share?

What is the most important lesson women can learn in terms of nourishing their inner goddess?

The Inner Game transforms your outer Gain. Your world is exactly what you created. Unleashing the power of self-worth, means your true passion uplifts the energy level to unlimited power. Follow a inner path of happiness & self love radiates outward to everyone you meet. Creating your own sunshine or charisma that makes all beings feel enlighten when they meet you.

Why is it important for women to focus on themselves - mind, body and spirit?
Balancing these Lifestyle Actions = Relationship, Career, Physical Activity, Spirituality, and Wealth
When your thoughts are raising your vibrations you have a sense of calmness. We all have a compass with in when you get on the right path you feel 10 years younger. Because you are releasing old blueprints of doubt, fear, pain other have placed in your path. If you are in a bad relationship your world unravels. If you dislike your Job it become a long dreadful Day, week, years. When the body energy is motionless it reacts by becoming an unpleasant form, elevating Stress, abnormal hormones, and illness. If you don’t have a deeper believe in yourself or your higher being, you tend to fall into gossip, believing your not worth a new life, fear of change, and hard to let go of the past or forgive people.

What are the three top excuses busy women give themselves when it comes to finding time to rejuvenate their inner goddess - and why are those excuses not good enough?
  1. Not Enough Time: We all have the same 24 hours, if you feel you are worth it you will find the time. You would never leave the house without brushing your teeth, so why do you not care for the body that holds the teeth.
  2. Habit: An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary! Pick a words for claiming your habits dependence, frame of mind, fixed attitude, pattern, obsession, rule, rut, and second nature. I need get that promotion, to take care of my family, to make more money. Time is the most valuable thing we have to spend time with yourself to better your mind & body & Spirit make you feel Happy. When you take time to be active this effects everyone around you. You become happier, loving, cheerful, peaceful, and blissful. ( when your sick you will pay anything to be health. Can't commit to yourself
  3. Commitment: The State or Quality of being dedicated to a Cause, Activity, most importantly YOU!!! Thriving words Unleashed, Potential, Devotion, Loyalty, Obligation, Duty, and Allegiance these words should be in your mindset for True Wellness. Letting go of the bad habit & overcoming the steps in between to a new path to wellness.

Do you believe the soul is a powerful energy? How can more women tap into the power of their soul and the energy within?

 We are a soul in a physical body. We have unlimited power that has been crushed by others. Think of your self as a Tree to live Limitless. Trees are here to grow, provide shelter, wood, and comfort from the sun. If a tree had limits it could not provide all the tools for the world.

By fueling the fire for true potential. Ex. you take care of your car, by taking it to get a oil changes, put the best gas in your car, to keep your car running for performance, you want the best ride. You would never put water in your car.

So why are you not building strength with in your mind. Fueling the most powerful asset  you have inner power, courage, hope, confidence. We were born with a gift but we are not giving it gas. we are our worst best friend we have by the thought about our self.

What is your hope for busy women today?

  • To provide the tools of self- awareness with-in and letting them know its ok to have a day just to reconnect with your gift.
  • It is ok for women as givers to give a day just to clear their energy to open a path of wellness.
  • It is ok to learn a new way to react to this busy world.
  • It is ok to ask for help to find balance.
  • It is ok to let yourself let you guard down to receive a compliment.
  • It is ok to find your clarity & a new path.

How important is it to experience an "eye opening experience" when it comes to health and wellness?

Did you know? we spend $8 billion dollars a year in treatments for illness. How much is spent on preventive care 4 percent a year! That alone is astounding. So if we haven't been taught how to care for our health in the 21st Century. Then when will we learn to live Fully while battling boredom, Stress, Heart ache, Divorce. To hear the story of Women that have transformed their environment & bodies for the better good of Women everywhere.

What six tips can you share with women to inspire them to embrace their inner goddess?

  • Love the soul within your skin in! For the first day of the 21 Century  Blueprint commitment to loving the soul within your skin. Truly sit down quietly, mindfully, compassionately, and ask am I the person I always dreamed of being?
  • Be Grateful for the life you have. Once you're aware of your habits they can be released from the grip of dependence. I am Healthy, Well, Whole, Lively, Flourishing, and Fresh! in 21 minutes write out everything you are grateful for.
  • Live, Laugh, and Love on Purpose
  • So what is your true Essence or Value from the core of your Being? For the third day of the 21 Century Wellness Blueprint find the true Essence of your being. Hence I didn’t say Human (being) which is the Physical form of the body. Now find the Inner Drive for pure potential to be your best self. Within your 21 minute time frame a fantastic habit Commit to this ultimate essence.
  • Eli-mate any doubt of breaking free from the Rut.Evolve into the Being you have only wished to be! Believe in You, Be the Master of your Mind. Fifth Day of the 21 Century Wellness Blueprint Think of the wellness habits you have wished to transform over the years but gave up on them, write the habits down with in the 21 minutes time frame. Then commit to a small habit to swift your awareness to an uplifting spirit to get to your goal.
  • Write down 5 words or things that you love about yourself - tape it to the mirror repeat it daily! I am Loving. I am Funny. I am caring. I am sexy. I am pretty. I love your eyes. I love your smile.

Kerry, can you share a favorite quote - and why you feel motivated by these words of wisdom?

Take care of your Body, It's the only place you have to Live - Jim Rohn

We are putting everything in front of our health. (Work, Stress, Family) We forget our body is a well run functioning machine, that gets us to work, helps battle stress, and get's all the family needs done.  In this time of complete overwhelm & sickness we have to place health as our #1 wealth today. Choose the best choices to prevent a life of Stress & Illness.

Final thought: What is the key to self empowerment today?
Wellness is a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being. "The constant, conscious pursuit of living life to its fullest potential" Being Happy your way and only your way of feeling Happy. The cause of illness is Disease with life, relationship, wealth, family and you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What Is Gamification? Tom McMorrow Talks Game Mechanics, Enticing Millennials & Today's Very Cool Power of Engagement (Hey, Badges Too!)

What exactly is gamification? That's one very complex and perfect question for Tom McMorrow, marketing and gamification specialist - and one impressive social media and new age marketing strategist - at Asterism* Group. See what Tom has to say!

Tom McMorrow: Gamification is the application of video game mechanics to non-gaming environments. This can range from implementing just one or two of the core mechanics of a successful video game to designing a fully interactive user experience. To clarify, successful video game developers use different video game mechanics to satisfy various human needs and keep the player engaged. The most commonly used gamification mechanics are points, levels, challenges, virtual goods, leaderboards and gifting/charity. Each of these represents and satisfies a specific human need. Points satisfy our need for reward. Levels satiate our desire for status. Challenges pacify our quest for achievement. Virtual Goods quench our search for self-expression. Leaderboards fulfil our craving for competition. Finally, Gifting/Charity accomplishes our ambition of altruism.

So, gamification is another way for businesses to optimize user engagement?

Tom McMorrow: Precisely. It is important to note that ‘user’ doesn’t just mean ‘customer’. Some of the most successful implementations of gamification came when companies used game techniques to train, motivate and enhance their workforce. As we all know, a happy and well-trained workforce often leads to greater profits. An example of this can be found in what has colloquially become known as the Target Checkout Game.  

In the mid 2000’s, customers at Target had the same major complaint of slow checkout lines. The establishment tried remedying this situation with additional registers, to no avail. It was then that Target implemented a system to ‘grade’ employees on their checkout speed with either a green G or red R. After an employee scanned an item, the G or R would appear on the screen. The green G meant the time between items was acceptable, the red R meant the employee was too slow. At the end of the transaction, the G to R ratio was shown as a percentage. Employees were notified that scoring below the suggested percentage (82%) they could expect reprimand, whereas scores above would lead to advancement. 

The result: Not only did Target’s checkout speed metric dramatically improve, but employees reported increased job satisfaction. This added benefit is due to the ‘game’ increasing the employee’s sense of agency, or belief that you are in control of your own destiny. Target is just one example where game mechanics helped optimize employee engagement, there are many others as well.
Why do websites leveraging gamification increase opportunities for lead generation and brand loyalists?

Tom McMorrow: Websites that utilize gamification harness the power of engagement. Many websites are static, and this drives down the desire for repeat visits. Once a user comes and consumes the information on a static website, there is no need to stay on or revisit the site anymore. In addition, there is nothing particularly noteworthy that would motivate the user to refer other leads to the site. Through proper gamification, users are invested in site activities. One example is the gamification of the Quantum of Solace website. Originally, the website was very static. 

Users could watch trailers and download wallpapers but not much else. As such, repeat visits to the site and lead generation for the franchise was an issue. After a graphic artist was hired to gamify the website, repeat visits improved dramatically along with word of mouth buzz. This was accomplished by allowing each user to ‘become’ a secret agent. Points were assigned to different activities on the site, and leaderboards were prominently displayed to show who had the best scores. In addition, the scarcity principal was used in the form of ‘self-destructing’ messages sent to user’s mobile devices that offered the opportunity to earn additional points for a limited time. 

Results showed that the conversion was extremely successful in increasing both customer retention and brand loyalty. Gamification of websites allows companies to continually engage customers through clever use of game mechanics. Shown below are the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of the Quantum of Solace website. (Images courtesy of Google)



Is gamification related to social media?

Tom McMorrow: Yes. While many of us think of the combination of gamification and social media resulting in a torrent of Candy Crush invites, there’s more to it than that. LinkedIn, for example, has the “Profile Strength” meter that fills up and shifts colors to notify the user of their increasing status. This is a gamified element that directly mirrors the concept of Levels mentioned previously. In addition, there are also notifications to show your profile’s ranking and whether it has increased or decreased. This feature is correlated to the Leaderboard element also cited earlier. Often utilization of gamification is very subtle, so as to not alienate non-gaming users.

What do you think is the coolest thing about gamification - the absolute coolest attribute?

Tom McMorrow: I believe the human element is the most fascinating component of gamification. That is, the idea that we as humans perform best when exposed to game mechanics. When presented with a challenging but achievable situation, the body produces adrenaline that makes our reflexes faster. Every gamer knows this feeling. Elevated heart rate, pupil dilation and increased capacity for stimulus processing. This produces what is known as eustress, or ‘positive stress’. In a properly designed game (or gamified system), a user will be in a eustress behavioral loop (EBL). 

In an EBL, the user is faced with an achievable challenge which produces eustress. When the challenge is complete, the user’s system is flooded with dopamine which motivates them to continue. This ‘tense and release’ structure is the hallmark of good games and gamified systems. The ability for gamification to bring out the best in people’s performance is what I find the most interesting. A good gamified system should engage your customers similar to the eustress behavioral loop.

So, gamification drives brand awareness and user engagement? Does that mean gamification should be a component of any competitive marketing plan?

Tom McMorrow: Used properly, yes. An ideal example of this is the creation of the America’s Army video game. In the late 80’s, the US Army attempted to rebrand itself as an adventure as opposed to a responsibility with the “Be all you can be” campaign. Despite this makeover, recruitment was exceptionally slow even into the 90’s. At this point, the Army attempted to entice young recruits with scholarships, with dismal results. In 2002, retired colonel Casey Wardynski created the America’s Army video game, allowing players to virtually experience the armed forces. The game became the single most cost-effective recruitment tool in the military’s entire history, according to sworn congressional testimony by the Army. The project took 10 years and $33m to build out of the military’s $700m annual budget for recruitment. 

A study was done in 2008 by MIT that found that 30 percent of young Americans had a more favorable view of the Army due to playing the game. Also, the America’s Army video game was proven to have a more substantial impact on recruitment than all other forms of advertising combined. While not all companies have the budget of the US Army, even small uses of gamification can yield inexpensive solutions to tough problems. It is my sincere hope in the coming years that more companies adopt gamification as another tool in their overall marketing approach.  

Is gamification right for all businesses? What are the ideal demographics and targets for gamification success?

Tom McMorrow: While I can’t speak for all businesses, I feel gamification has an appropriate place in most companies. While many people assume that the ideal demographic for gamification success is the millennial generation, this is not entirely true. Millennials are most likely the target demographic for an immersive user experience such as Americas Army. However, older generations may require a more nuanced approach. For example, say a doctor’s office wanted to create an app to remind their aging Baby Boomer patients to take medications on time. While an interactive experience may be overwhelming, there is a strong probability patients would respond to gamified elements such as progress meters. The demographic for gamification as a concept is all ages; however the implementation must be modified for different age cohorts to achieve maximum benefit.
What's your favorite gamification creation - badges, challenges, gifts. Or, is it all game mechanics?

Tom McMorrow: All gamification elements are a direct translation of good game mechanics. That being said, I feel different personality types have certain game mechanics they respond best to. People with exceptional generosity tend to enjoy the mechanic of gifting. Others who are strongly status oriented may be drawn towards levels. Personally, I am hardwired to get the maximum enjoyment out of personal accomplishment. As such, I feel challenges are most rewarding to me. The knowledge that I completed an exceptionally difficult challenge is incredibly satisfying.

What is the future of gamification, for business marketing, personal branding and overall awareness campaigns?

Tom McMorrow: Over the past ten years, we have seen an explosive growth in the mobile device market. The widespread use of smartphones ushered in the personal device event horizon. As such, it is my firm belief that the future of gamification is headed towards mobile consumption. Wawa (a regional convenience store) recently released a mobile app for its “Hoagiefest” promotion. Finance apps such as Personal Capital allow investors to monitor and interact with their portfolios in a gamified way. There are even apps to monitor users sleep patterns and help them maximize their rest. I believe the next logical step is wearable smart devices such as smart watches and Google Glass. It is my hope to see such devices incorporated into everyday life. The possibilities of gamification on these emerging technologies is near limitless, and companies would be wise to start allocating resources in that direction. Gamification is rapidly emerging as a winning strategy, from lowering training costs and improving employee efficiency to maximizing brand recognition and loyalty. While the future is impossible to predict, I can say this with certainty: Gamification is here to stay, and for companies that play to win, it can help them get to the next level.

Tom McMorrow is the Marketing/Gamification Strategist at the Asterism* Group. Tom is an expert in Game Design and Development, with a passion for marketing and social media. Visit www.asterismgroup.com. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 5 Must-Have Secrets for List Building In 2014

Friends are amazing. Friends with expertise in key areas of business development are amazing too! Friends with expertise in areas of business development who are willing to SHARE their expertise with the world are PRICELESS!

Recently, Michelle Glover - an entrepreneur with vast experience and creativity in startups, social media, marketing, branding and effective business strategies and sustainability - shared her friendly expertise with Consumption Conversations. We welcome this guest post by our friend, Michelle! Enjoy!

Guest Post: Michelle Glover, Girl EnTREEpreneur

If you have never studied marketing guru, Dan Kennedy, hold the phone, put the kids in the basement (not really..ok really), order out Chinese, pour a glass of wine and spend the night with Dan (ok, again don’t really spend the night with him. . .although he might like that). You can find his products on eBay and Amazon or buy them from him outright.  They are usually pretty pricey, so you might want to take a page out of the Girl EnTREEpreneur playbook and get ‘em second hand. In any event, if you’ve been around the internet marketing block at all, you’ve probably heard the old chestnut, “the money is in the list.”

Old Dan might disagree. Sure, you need to list build, if you really want to get wealthy on the net, but Kennedy says the money is really in the relationship you have with your list (or herd as he calls it).

Here are Kennedy’s five must-have secrets to developing an awesome and responsive list:

1. Affinity

This is a sense of belonging to a group and the pride of being attached. Why has the Rocky Horror Picture Show kept a cult following since 1975?  It meets participants’ need to belong to something bigger and perhaps more interesting than themselves.  It has secret inside words and knowledge (“toast!” anyone?) as well as its own customs and even dance steps. Still don’t understand?  Just sit down with any rabid Cubs fan and take notes.  Nuff said.
Objective:  You want to make certain each and every member of your herd feels special and a part of something extraordinary. Consider the following list: Inside Knowledge, Special or Secret Words, Uncertainly, Clothing or Style, and Traditions.

2. Attachment to a Person or Personality

If you have any recollection of cousin Doris crying for weeks when Elvis died (and she’d never, ever, not once in person, met him) than you get the idea.  Sure, maybe some of the best business info is by some guy from the Harvard School of Business, but it is way more fun to cozy up and learn from The Donald or Frank Kern or ________.
Objective:  Build a fun (or at least interesting) personality brand that people will want to follow.

3. Interests

This is pretty similar to number 2.  Are you continually interesting to your herd?  Do you do interesting things, meet interesting people, buy interesting things, have interesting (or even controversial opinions)?  If yes, than you’ll attract and keep a herd.
Crazy thought – people who hate Howard Stern actually listen to him longer than people who love Howard Stern.  Why?  They just can’t wait to see what he will say next.
Objective:  You want to be a place where everyone wants to live or would at least like to visit.  Be honest with your herd and do things they would admire you for.
Note:  A way to measure how well you are building interest with your herd is the number of contacts and emails you get from people who want to relate you as a person and tell you their life story.

4. On a Mission From God 

“We’re on a mission from God.” - Elwood of the Blues Brothers
People want to be connected with something that has a higher or more meaningful purpose.  They want to be part of your personal mission from God.
Objective:  Appeal to that higher calling.  Invite them on a meaningful and exciting journey.

5. Frequency

“Gone but not forgotten” does not apply here.  “Out of sight; out of mind,” is more applicable in regard to herds.  Kennedy says you need to contact your herd almost every day – at least in some way.  Maybe you don’t want to email them every day, but certainly make efforts with your social media to keep it moving with new, interesting and fresh information.
Objective: Make sure you touch your community with emails, newsletters, videos, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. at least 300 days a year.

Bio:  Michelle Glover is the CEO of TheTeaTreeReviewReview and Girl EnTREEpreneur, helping women grow an online business one leaf at the time.
Connect with her at:

Website: www.girlentreepreneur.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/enTREEpreneurz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GirlEntreepreneur?ref=hl