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Can An Heiress Be Self-Made? Paris Hilton Thinks So

Welcome to Refinery29’s weeklong exploration of women and greed in an era of enormous wealth inequality. Where does need end and greed begin? Read on.

Last month, Paris Hilton found herself in a familiar position, standing in front of a crowd of goading paparazzi decked out in bejeweled sunglasses and a shiny silver mini dress. But the conversation they were having was certainly not familiar to those who may think they know the heiress: “President Trump is going to sign the executive order to help the immigrants,” a voice yells out to her amidst the incessant pop of camera flashes. “Do you think that’s going to help?”

Hilton, who’s been the subject of paparazzi lust for almost two decades, is quick with an outspoken opinion: “He better help them, because this is not right what they’re doing to these children and their families … No one should be separated from their family. I’m disgusted,” she replies, turning her head to the side, revealing the weighty gold Gucci logo emblazoned on the arms of her glasses. She doesn’t stop signing autographs, but then looks directly into the camera and tells the world (or perhaps it’s her former family friend, Donald Trump, for whom she voted and to whom she is primarily speaking): “People come to America for the American Dream.”

This is TMZ’s contribution to the national debate over Trump’s family separation policy, and it feels both like a throwback to the tabloid-fueled chintziness of aughts-era Hollywood and a moment that could only occur in 2018. It is a surreal exchange for a litany of reasons, not least because of our collective understanding of who the woman in the sunglasses talking about immigration is: Paris Hilton is an icon not just of the 2000s, but of a certain widely held image of what inherited wealth, undeserved fame, and American excess looks like. There was her reality show The Simple Life, which followed Hilton and then-BFF Nicole Richie as they abandoned their lives of leisure to go live and work alongside “regular” Americans. Then there was also the numerous film and TV appearances, the singing career, the product lines, and the constant coverage by tabloids and early blogs. Through all this she crafted a persona — and, according to our conversation with her, that’s exactly what it was — of a spoiled, air-headed, platinum blonde princess, complete with the fake baby voice and sugary pseudo-sexuality that implies.

“I just got stuck with that character because people don’t know me in real life or haven’t spoken to me,” Hilton tells Refinery29. “They assume it’s just the baby voice and you know, ‘what’s Walmart?’ and silly things. I would say that’s not really how I am, but I was just trying to be entertaining for television.”

At 37, she’s been in and out of the spotlight for nearly two decades, and seems to be emerging now with a concerted effort to shake the image of the prodigal rich girl. How much it’s actually worked is in the eye of the beholder. “I think now I’ve really proven myself,” she argues. “With the success of my fragrances, then all my other 19 product lines, and all the big deals I’m doing, and real estate. I’m finally being taken seriously as a businesswoman and empire.”

While her grandfather donated 97 percent of his fortune to charity when he died in 2007, Paris currently has an estimated net worth of around $300 million. Her perfume empire alone is worth an estimated $1.5 billion. That it’s taken this long for Hilton to feel that she’s earned it says as much about the magnitude of her ambitions as it does about our fascination with money and how those who have it behave. Hilton was arguably the first person to turn her mere privileged existence into a lucrative career, a model copied today by many, but most famously mastered by Kim Kardashian (Paris’ old right hand) and her sisters. This year alone, Hilton released her 24th fragrance, launched a skincare line, and premiered a show on Viceland — of all places — where she examines the lives of young people attempting to “make it” in Hollywood. She also still DJs for nightly fees that, in 2014, were reported to be as high as $1 million per night, and dropped a new single titled “I Need You” earlier this year, though unfortunately it failed to live up to the success of her 2006 cult hit “Stars Are Blind.”

Yes, I came from Hilton hotels, but I’ve parlayed it into such a huge business that even my grandfather said to me, ‘I used to be known as Barron Hilton. Now I’m known as Paris Hilton’s grandfather.’

For all of today’s conversations about the spectrum of privilege and where certain people get placed on it, America either loves, or loves to hate, rich people. (Bonus points if they’re beautiful women with recognizable last names.) In thinking about Hilton, it’s hard not to call to mind another very privileged, very ambitious young woman: Ivanka Trump. In addition to being friends since childhood, both have monetized their moneyed backgrounds and our hunger for a piece of their world to sell a watered-down, mass-produced version of luxury. Paris’s numerous fragrances, like Ivanka’s now-defunct clothing line, are much less valuable because of the products themselves as they are because of the names behind them.

Hilton herself seems to understand this, saying of her new scent: “I really, I really want it to represent me and have my fans have a piece of me.” Nevermind that it smells like one of 2018’s least popular scents (roses), and has aggressively ignored the minimalist, millennial-friendly packaging her celebrity peers have adopted — Hilton’s confidence in her product reflects a confidence that rich-bitch wealth will always be relevant.

Indeed, even as her own star power has waxed and waned, the enormity of her legacy has come into focus: She is there in the fashion influencers filling your feed with their spon con. She is there among the stars of various reality television franchises, as they fling insults and beverages about on national TV. She is there among the socialite-turned-DJs-turned-fashion-designers that populate the most rarefied corners of the world, like Harley Viera-Newton and Alexa Chung.

“Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to be independent. I didn’t want to have to ask my family for anything,” Hilton explains of her attitude toward money and privilege. “Yes, I came from Hilton hotels, but I’ve parlayed it into such a huge business that even my grandfather said to me, ‘I used to be known as Barron Hilton. Now I’m known as Paris Hilton’s grandfather.’”

When asked about the recent controversy surrounding Forbes magazine’s designation of Kylie Jenner, whom Hilton has known since birth, as “self-made,” she was adamant that she agrees with that characterization — and feels it applies to herself as well. “I think of myself and anyone who does business as being self-made. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done on my own, and yes, I do come from a last name, but there also are many children I know that come from families who, you know, take the choice of not doing anything with their lives.”

“I think of myself and anyone who does business as being self-made.

“I work harder and travel more than any CEO I’m friends with,” she continued. “The same with Kylie. I think any woman who is going to get into business and be an entrepreneur and make a big name and brand for themselves, they are self-made.”

Indeed, Hilton and Jenner probably do work harder and travel more than any CEO. Because while a traditional CEO is responsible for a particular product, what Hilton and Jenner are selling is more ephemeral and all-encompassing. The CEO of L’Oreal or MAC doesn’t have to prove that their entire existence is consistent with and can be distilled into a $30 lip kit or a $20 perfume. Perhaps the fact that this is a real career path is a small part of the reason why the American Dream to which Hilton refers in the video increasingly feels like just that — a hallucination from another plane of consciousness. If the American Dream, a flawed premise in and of itself, is about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, what Hilton and Jenner have done is more like standing for a long period of time in Louboutins. It’s impressive, but you had to have the $1,000 down payment to get there.

Paris Hilton is not self-made, of course. But it’s not hard to imagine how people like Hilton, Jenner, and Kardashian — who recently echoed a sentiment similar in an interview with Refinery29 — are able to conceive of themselves as such. They are indeed a different breed from those born into immense privilege who make no attempt to move forward on the opportunities afforded to them. Hilton’s hustle is impressive, but it doesn’t make her self-made in the way that someone like Cardi B or Rihanna is. You can be hard-working and break barriers without being able to define yourself as self-made.

Hilton’s legacy is a complicated one predicated not just on a cultural obsession with rich girls, but on a sexist desire to tear apart and vilify them in a way that rarely occurs with men of similar means. Why are we so obsessed with the Kardashian sisters and not the Brant brothers?

When we spoke to Hilton over the phone, she sounded cool and self-assured. She has, in case you were weren’t aware, dropped the infamous little girl voice. Surprisingly though, like many who came of age in an era before smartphones and social media and celebrities with teams of people meticulously crafting every inch of their facades, she also holds a degree of nostalgia for that more freewheeling time. “I can’t imagine if I had social media back then,” she confesses, imagining how much more difficult her fame would have been to cultivate.

“I didn’t have all these tools. I didn’t have an agent, no publicist, no manager. I’m going out in public and just being myself and everyone used to say like, ‘Oh my God, famous for being famous’ and like it was almost a bad thing, but now I feel like it’s a whole new formula that has really inspired this whole new generation.”

Despite this, Hilton boasts 9.3 million followers on Instagram, and 17.2 million on Twitter. There are fan accounts out there dedicated not just to her, but to her pets. She’s not Kim Kardashian, who has 114 million Instagram followers, nor is she of the mold of Chrissy Teigen and Busy Phillips, two celebrities beloved for their highly relatable social media content. But people don’t follow Paris Hilton for the great content she’s going to post. They follow her because she’s Paris Hilton.

Critics have said that The Simple Life, the premise of which was dreamed up by Fox execs, functioned to mock the denizens of the small towns it featured, but one could just as easily argue that Hilton and Richie were the butt of the joke. It also flattened Hilton into the one-dimensional character that it appears the “real” her has spent the past decade struggling to emerge from. It is unavailable for streaming on any of the major sites, but exists in perpetuity on YouTube. What is supremely ironic about Hilton and her attempt to return to the spotlight is that the thing that initially beamed her into our living rooms was that she was such an effective agent in showcasing the great American class divide, a massive crater which has only widened in the decade following.

Indeed, Paris Hilton is truly not self-made. But more than her family’s wealth or her well-known last name, we made her.

While Twitter didn’t exist back then, tabloids and early blogs did, and as Hilton’s star rose, so too did the level of scrutiny placed on her. In 2004, just as Hilton was about to become a household name, her ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon released a pornographic video of her. Today, the video would be understood as revenge porn, but back then, it was somehow understood as attention-seeking on Hilton’s part. In The American Meme, a 2018 documentary she appeared in, she compared the ordeal to being raped and said she “literally wanted to die.” While illicit celebrity tapes still exist and get leaked, it’s thankfully no longer socially acceptable (in most places, at least) to slut-shame the women victimized by them. If anything, thanks to the ability of the internet to magnify a more diverse range of voices, people are quick to call out such injustices with hackers serving jail time.

“It’s incredible what is happening right now with this movement,” Hilton says of contemporary feminism. “I think women can take over the world. Even though there’s been so many awful things that have happened and scary things, it’s really just changed the whole climate, and what people know women are capable of.”

But there’s a big caveat: We know the capabilities of some women, the ones who have been provided with the advantages necessary to show us what they can do. Which is maybe why Hilton’s rebranding as a serious business woman feels complicated at best. What’s surprising, though, is that even now, her understanding of a concept like being self-made still seems so limited.

Nevertheless, critics would do well to remember that Hilton wouldn’t have become famous if we hadn’t wanted her to be. Indeed, Paris Hilton is truly not self-made. But more than her family’s wealth or her well-known last name, we made her.

And to hear her tell it, she’s grateful: “I feel so proud of my fanbase and how loyal they are. The relationship I have with my fans, they’re like my family. They call themselves the Little Hiltons, it’s such a loyal fanbase. They really can relate with me.”

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Brand Patagonia: A Founders Story And Strategy

Brand Patagonia: A Founders Story And Strategy

In April 2017, the authors of Legacy In The Making visited me at Patagonia’s headquarters, in Ventura, California, to talk about the legacy I’m building as the founder of Patagonia. We talked about a lot of things, some of which I’d never spoken about before. Afterward, when they asked me if I’d share some of those insights and stories in the foreword to their book and I made it clear: I never wanted to be a conventional businessman. I liked climbing rocks, not corporate ladders.

“Exactly,” they responded. “That’s why we asked you.”

It’s true. I never set out to be a businessman. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about business with Chouinard Equipment and Patagonia, the two outdoor outfitters I founded. But I’m a creature of the 1960s. I never liked authority. I was a rock climber. Back when I started climbing at the age of 19, the gear was poor quality. The pitons—the metal spikes you drive into cracks—were made of soft iron and were designed to be used once and left in place. The attitude back then was about dominating the mountains, conquering them and leaving all your gear behind to make it easier for the next party. I didn’t share that attitude. I had a different ambition.

I wanted to climb without leaving a trace so that the next party and every party after that could experience the climb as I had—in its natural state. To do that, I needed a new kind of piton that you could remove and reuse over and over as you ascended. Since nothing like that existed at the time, I decided to design it myself. I bought an old coal-fired forge from a junkyard, built a small shop in my parents’ backyard, taught myself how to blacksmith, and began making my own high-quality reusable pitons. They were the first of their kind, designed for a new style of climbing. I called my fledgling company Chouinard Equipment.

Initially, I was just a craftsman making climbing gear for myself and my friends. But I happened to be pretty good at it, and pretty soon I was selling gear to friends of friends out of the back of my car (whenever I wasn’t surfing or climbing, that is). That evolved into making better crampons—the metal spikes on climbing boots—and better ice axes. With climbing, the better the tool, the better your chance of coming home in one piece. The quality of the materials and design—how the tool actually functioned in the field—was everything. People noticed, and by 1970 Chouinard Equipment had become the largest supplier of climbing equipment in the United States.

At that time, we were on the cutting edge of climbing. Some of the climbs we were doing in Yosemite National Park were harder than any rock climbs ever done in the world. Being on the cutting edge meant that we were not following the market. We weren’t waiting for customers to tell us what to make. For example, when I started coming out with new tools for ice climbing, people had no idea how to use them, and so I began writing a book about it. The Austrians and Germans had different techniques than the French and the Scottish. I ran around the world and studied all the different techniques so that I could bring everything together in one unified method.

In 1970, on my way home from climbing in Scotland, I bought a rugby shirt—a blue one with yellow and red stripes. Functionally, I thought it would be a great climbing shirt. It had a tough collar so that the gear slings wouldn’t cut your neck and rubber buttons that wouldn’t rip off. At that time, American sportswear was basically gray sweatpants and sweatshirts. That was it. There was no colored sportswear for men. Yet all of a sudden, here I was, wearing this really colorful shirt, and people were saying, “Wow, where’d you get that?” That was when we decided to start selling our own.

Our colors got pretty outrageous, but they also served a function. When you spend days suspended on a “big wall” climb or weeks stormbound in a tent, it’s tough on your psyche. You want colorful clothes just for your own mental health.

We sold a lot of those rugby shirts. By 1973, we had launched a new brand, Patagonia, to focus on our growing clothing business. Unlike Chouinard Equipment (which we eventually sold to a group of employees who launched a brand called Black Diamond), we knew nothing about the established clothing industry when we started Patagonia. Zero. Conventional fashion designers take a mannequin, wrap cloth around it, pin it here and there, and create a dress. But our background was in designing lifesaving climbing gear, not fashion, and so we looked at clothes as tools.

Before we designed any new piece of clothing—whether it was an alpine jacket, a pair of socks, or a bikini—we always started by asking about function. What problem were we trying to solve? How would the product be used, not just worn? Which features would it need, and which would it not need? It’s like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” In retrospect, I think that is our biggest contribution to the clothing business: treating clothes as tools and applying the principles of industrial design.

When you approach products as tools that serve a function, it forces you to pare things down to their essence. Just look around. Complexity is easy. The world is full of complex, disposable junk. Simplifying things, though—designing quality tools that last—now, that’s hard.

More than 60 years after I forged that first removable piton, we still approach everything we make just as I did in the beginning— as a simple, functional tool. The best tool for whatever your ambition is. As my ambition was to make better gear for the things I loved to do, my companies were the tools I used to achieve that ambition. But as your ambitions evolve, as mine would before long, so must your tools.

Finding Our Way Back To The Real Patagonia

As the years have passed and Patagonia has grown, so have the brand’s responsibilities. These days, we behave as if we want to be in business a hundred years from now. This is reflected in our mission statement: “Make the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” The mission statement is a tool, too. Like a compass, its function is to orient our brand culture and keep it moving in the right direction. But Patagonia didn’t always work this way.

In the early years, I ran the business like every other company. Just running it for the sake of getting larger and larger, doing everything that normal companies do. By the 1980s, we were taking off: opening new dealers, developing our own retail stores, and growing about 50 percent a year. You can’t grow like that for very long before you end up in financial trouble. It’s just impossible.

In 1990, the American economy went into recession. After years of growing just for the sake of growing, our sales suddenly hit a wall. The banks got into financial trouble, and so did we. We couldn’t borrow enough money to cover inventory, and we nearly lost the business. For the first time in our history, we had to lay people off—20 percent of our entire staff. Those people were like family, and the impact on our brand culture was a wake-up call. After we had been preoccupied with growth for years, our brand was adrift. Not only did we have to reassess our growth plans, we had to reassess who we were and who we wanted to be.

That was when I took our key managers—about 10 or 12 of us—and we all went down to Argentina, to the real Patagonia. We hiked around, sat down, and asked ourselves why we were in business and what we expected to get out of this. We asked each person why he or she was working for us. Though my ambition had always been to build the best tools, it was during this trip that we discussed our values:

• Make the highest-quality products.
• Consider the environmental impact of everything we do.
• Engage and support our communities.
• Contribute a portion of our sales to philanthropy.

No one said a word about profit.

Once we had collected everyone’s thoughts, we established our brand values by consensus. I’ve always believed in making decisions by consensus as opposed to compromise. Compromise is what the government does. Compromise never solves a problem. Compromise leaves both sides feeling cheated. Consensus is how Native American tribes historically made decisions, and it was the chief ’s job to build consensus. That’s been my role: to set the general direction we’re going in and to get our employees to buy in.

After we got back from our trip to Patagonia, I started leading weeklong seminars to teach our employees about the values that would guide our brand culture moving forward. I wanted everyone to be empowered to make day-to-day decisions that were based on those values rather than always waiting for instructions from the boss. Years later, in 2005, I published everything—my ambition, our history, our growth crisis, our values—in Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. Like those recyclable pitons, I didn’t publish the book to get rich. I did it because as a reluctant businessman, I had learned an important lesson about business: Regardless of what you sell, your business itself—including your culture and your values—is your product. If we could inspire more values-based businesses, our society and environment would be a lot better off.

Let My People Go Surfing is still selling all over the world. They teach it in high schools, and it’s been printed in 9 or 10 languages—all because people see the Patagonia brand as a different model. We’re not alone in our beliefs. Brands with long-term ambitions and strong values-driven cultures are increasingly demonstrating that profits and purpose aren’t mutually exclusive.

Lasting Brands Move People, Not Just Goods

I’ve always been an advocate for social and environmental causes, but I don’t like being on the front lines. I get too frustrated. Instead, I’ve learned how to use business to effect change. We follow our beliefs, our customers follow us, and positive change tends to follow that. People who believe in what we’re doing gravitate to our message. They become our advocates. That’s why our marketing philosophy is so simple: We tell people who we are and what we do. That’s it. Fiction is so much more difficult to write than nonfiction.

For us, marketing isn’t about moving goods. It’s about moving people. For example, in 2011 we ran a print ad on Black Friday that said, “Don’t buy this jacket.” We sold so many of those jackets! That wasn’t the intent. The intent was to encourage people to reflect on what they buy and to buy only what they need. The best thing you can do for the environment as far as clothing goes is to buy the very best quality, use it as long as possible, and keep it out of the landfill. Repair it. Reuse it. Recycle it.

That Black Friday campaign forced us to make a pact with our customers: If you buy one of our jackets, we’ll repair it forever. If you outgrow it or stop using it, we’ll help you sell it to somebody else. Eventually we’ll take it back and melt it down into more jackets. It forced us to build the largest garment repair facility in North America. In fact, we have a truck that goes around to colleges and teaches kids how to sew buttons on. We’ll repair any of their clothes, not just ours. We practice business this way because our customers are our loyal sales force, and they pay far more attention to good deeds than to lofty words.

For our 2016 Black Friday campaign, we decided to give all the revenue away to environmental causes. Not just the profits. All of our revenue that day. As a result, our sales quadrupled, from $2.5 million the previous year to over $10 million for Black Friday 2016. We gave away all $10 million—in addition to the $9 million contribution we made that same year in line with our annual commitment to contribute 1 percent of our sales to charity. Philanthropic campaigns like this don’t cut into our sales. In fact, 60 percent of our customers from these campaigns are new. Just think about how much it costs most companies to get new customers. The social media aspect of this campaign cost us nothing. We let the word out, and in turn, our customers helped spread the word for us.

At the end of the year, we measure success by how much good we’ve done and what impact we’re having on society, not by profit. Honestly, if you ask me how much money we’ve made in the last year, I would have to look it up. I know that we are extremely profitable. I also believe in karma. Karma and profits coexist here because every time we’ve made a decision in service of doing good, our customers have noticed. And when our customers get behind us, more good things follow.

Write Your Own Rules, Don’t Master Someone Else’s

I know it’s unorthodox to be guided by both karma and profits, but that’s just one of many ways we break the rules of business these days. I think of Patagonia less as a conventional brand selling products than as an experiment, an evolving means of using business to solve social problems.

If you look around and see who’s working here, we all have degrees in subjects such as anthropology, zoology, and English. Only a few of us actually have degrees in business. We’re all learning how to run a business by asking lots of questions and approaching things as beginners. We’re successful because we have the confidence to write our own rules rather than master someone else’s.

Maybe that’s why we’re comfortable being a guinea pig and trying new things. We’re making healthy food and producing films about society’s impact on the natural world. We’re even thinking about starting an immersive nature school for kids. As unconventional as these programs may sound, all of them are firmly rooted in our ambitions and values. Ultimately, the next generation won’t care about nature if they don’t think they’re part of it. So while our values haven’t changed, the way we choose to express those values to new generations of customers is always evolving.

At Patagonia, it’s not that we’re just looking for ways to stand out for the sake of standing out. We behave differently because our ambitions are different. We also measure success differently—on the basis of long-term contributions, not short-term profits. When you chase short-term profits, you either keep doing what you already know will work or copy what someone else is doing. We don’t do that. When we stand out, it’s because we’ve found a new way to express our long-term ambitions.

In the mid-1990s, for example, we took a stand against chemically intensive cotton and began making all of our clothes with organic cotton. It was a challenge, and a lot of our manufacturing partners walked away from us, but we learned by doing and ultimately developed our own private cotton supply chain. Most people aren’t willing to jump right in like that. But that’s the way I like to deal with everything. Most people want to figure things out to the nth degree before they ever take a step. In the end, they won’t even take that step because it feels too unfamiliar. Not me. I immediately jump in and see how it feels. That’s how I know we’re on the cutting edge—when we step outside conventions and lead the market rather than follow it. This approach takes vision and perseverance, but it keeps us in a category of our own. As the saying goes, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

I was on a panel during the recent recession, and it was all surf industry CEOs and people like that. We all talked about our businesses, and I talked about how much effort we put into cleaning up our supply chain and trying not to cause unnecessary harm. One of the CEOs from one of the largest surf companies told me his company had been making a few organic cotton ball caps and T-shirts before the recession but had cut back when the economy slowed down.

I said, “How are your sales?” He said, “Well, we’re down about 25 percent.” Patagonia was up 30 percent. That company ultimately filed for bankruptcy. Today the surf industry is on the rocks, but we’re doing great because we’re riding our own wave.

The Secret To Lasting Is To Keep Playing Your Own Game

I’ve been in business for over 60 years. I’ve survived bad times. I’ve thrived in good times. I believe the secret to lasting is never sitting still. Some people see change as a threat. They hate it. I thrive on it, as does every ecosystem as well as every business that cares about its legacy in the making. I’m not talking about change for the sake of change. I’m talking about evolving and adapting as if you intend on being here a hundred years from now; it’s about never losing sight of where you came from or what inspired you in the first place.

Although we try to run Patagonia as if it’s going to be here a hundred years from now, I tell my employees that doesn’t mean we have a hundred years to get there. Continuous change requires a sense of urgency. That’s why my job these days is to combat complacency and instigate change. There’s a falconry term—yarak—that means super-alert, hungry, and ready to hunt. Along with our other leaders, one of my responsibilities is to keep the company in yarak.

The best way I keep us from sitting still is by using what I’ve learned to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders, which includes the following:

• Have an ambition to develop better tools.
• Growth can be toxic, though culture can be a tonic.
• Move people, not just products.
Be distinct in everything we do.
• Evolve and change to remain unique.
• Long-term values can guide quick decision-making every day.

As the authors of this book say, “The making of a legacy is personal, behavioral, influential, unconventional, and perpetual.” These lessons don’t expire, and through education they can transcend generations. So I share my story—as I have here—to pass my legacy forward for others to carry on.

The business world talks about the importance of long-term thinking in a short-term world. It’s true, though it’s never easy. Conventional business will fight you every step of the way. Long-term investments in programs such as our brand’s employee childcare center and our pollution standards always look negative on our financial ledger. But because we think long-term, we know we have responsibilities beyond our conventional bottom line. So do you. So does every great brand leader.

You may already believe that your culture is your product, not what you sell. You may also believe, like me, that companies shouldn’t exist simply to be sold for a profit and broken apart. Of course, this isn’t how conventional business works. Conventional business treats companies like fatted calves to be auctioned to the highest bidder in the shortest amount of time. It’s the American way. It starts when we’re young, when they say, “Okay, kids, line up on the starting line and let’s see who can run the fastest! Now line up over here, kids, and let’s see who can jump the highest!” That way of thinking produces one superhero and a bunch of losers. But, I wanted to do something different. I always have.

Growing up, I was as good as anybody at baseball and football and other sports. But when it came time to line up and perform for a crowd, I couldn’t do it. So I’ve been a climber, a kayaker, a falconer, a Telemark skier, a spear fisherman—all noncompetitive sports. All individual pursuits where your only competition is how high you set your personal ambitions.

That’s my advice to you as you build your legacy in the making: Invent your own game. Ask yourself what you hope to get out of this life, let that enduring ambition guide you, and if the right tools don’t exist to accomplish it, design your own tools. Be the only person who does what you do the way you do it. That way, you will always be the winner.

~Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Marc Miller and Lucas Conley with the permission of McGraw-Hill. Excerpted and adapted from Legacy in the Making: Building a Long-Term Brand to Stand Out in a Short-Term World

The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about our purpose, mission, vision and values and brand culture workshops.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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A Fireside Chat with: Alexandre Mars, CEO and Founder of Epic Foundation

Mars.jpgAlexandre Mars is a serial entrepreneur and an engaged philanthropist. Over the last 15 years, he has successfully launched and sold several companies in Europe and North America across diverse business sectors, including venture capital, Internet, mobile marketing, social media and advertising. His two latest startups, Phonevalley (the world’s largest mobile agency) and ScrOOn (a social media management system) were sold to Publicis Groupe and Blackberry, respectively.

Understanding the demands of a new socially conscious generation, Mars created Epic Foundation as a platform for donors to engage in their charity through technology, allowing them to select, monitor and experience their impact. Mars is injecting new momentum into the world of philanthropy by shattering outdated restrictions to the act of giving. By manipulating what has traditionally been consumer technology, he is giving donors a chance to see the reach of their donations, ultimately driving them towards a two-way relationship with their charity.

Q: How did you transition from business to philanthropy?

A: I always knew I would use my success for good- it was embedded in me from a young age. In 2013, upon selling my last startup to Blackberry, my wife and I pulled our children out of school for nearly a year and travelled to over 13 countries, meeting with nonprofits and philanthropists around the world. The goal was to deepen our understanding of the philanthropic ecosystem and find out how we could get involved. I spent a great deal of time with NGO directors, philanthropists and social entrepreneurs identifying problems that the philanthropic market was facing and then finding ways to address those problems with effective solutions. I learned a great deal about the needs of donors as well as social organizations.

On the one hand we had these incredible organizations and social entrepreneurs. They had innovative or proven ideas for how to change the lives of children and youth, but were struggling to access funding, expertise, and new networks. On the other hand, you had donors with lots of capacity, and big powerful networks, who want to do more but didn’t know where to start or who to trust. It was then that I realized I didn’t have to transition completely. I could build upon my 20+ years of experience as a tech entrepreneur to innovate the nonprofit space. In response, Epic was born. We launched in 2014 as a global nonprofit startup headquartered in NYC.

Q:  How does Epic Foundation work?

A:  At Epic, we are disrupting the giving industry by proposing and providing new solutions that enhance how donors select, monitor and experience their impact. We are breaking down the barriers that restrict people from giving by providing a targeted answer to the issues of lack of time, knowledge and trust in nonprofit organizations that people typically face when giving.

To help them overcome these obstacles, Epic builds and manages a portfolio of rigorously vetted social organizations; tracks and monitors their social impact through a data platform; and keeps donors connected and engaged with the portfolio organizations through ongoing reporting of performance and accountability via a mobile application. And we do this free of cost for the donors: I’m funding Epic’s development and overhead costs myself.

Q:  How can donors see the reach of their donations?

A:  Donors want to give to organizations that best utilize their contributions. So each year we go out looking for the world’s most impactful organizations, working to empower children and youth in order to connect them to our global network of philanthropists and corporations looking to give in a more strategic and engaged way.

From there, it’s all about showing donors what their social investments are achieving. We do this in several ways, including monitoring reports twice a year. Our Impact App allows donors to track their social portfolio to provide a new level of transparency and speed to philanthropy. It’s one of the first attempts to create a two-way conversation around giving. You no longer send your money away in an envelope and wait until the end of the year to hear of its outcome. At your convenience, you have access to the numbers of meals served to youth in a homeless shelter in NY, or the number of vaccinations given to children preventing life threatening illnesses in Uganda. We connect their systems to our system, we render everything, we have a beautiful user interface and you’re able to track everything. It’s user friendly, and it’s impactful.

We also always encourage our donors to visit the organizations they support, but for those who can’t, we worked with a Hollywood award-winning producer to create a series of VR-based films around the work of each organization in our portfolio. Donors can put on a headset and immediately transport themselves into a setting of abject poverty. Yet, they also receive a quick glimpse into the work of the organization they support. The films are really engaging and we’ve received great feedback from viewers.

Q:  What advice do you have for companies that want to integrate social impact into their business objectives?

A:  First off- just do it. Get involved! There’s a whole wave of socially conscious consumers and potential employees coming to make sure that you do, so it’s better to get ahead.

More importantly, this is a question we’ve been working to answer for quite some time at Epic which is why we launched a series of solutions for companies, employers, entrepreneurs, etc. to integrate a social impact component into their business models. From taking our “Founders Pledge” (which commits entrepreneurs to give away a part of their profit to charity upon exiting their company) to instituting payroll giving so that employees can pursue purpose and profit at work, there are so many ways to make your social impact component painless and authentic. And it enables everyone at all levels of industry with the right tools to make a real difference.

A great example to look up to is Christian Dior Couture. In partnership with Epic, they just announced their new payroll giving initiative to their 1,000+ employees. Not only was it an easy absorption on Dior’s part, but it’s a great tool for their employees to turn leftover change at the end of their paychecks into support for their favorite cause.

Q:  What trends are you seeing in CSR right now?

A:  I think the most obvious is that employees are starting to urge employers to do more. CSR isn’t enough. It was a great initiative 10-15 years ago, but then we started seeing companies incorporate CSR strategies as a marketing ploy. People can see through this. We live in a world driven by tech which means that news spreads like wildfire. If employees don’t think your strategies are authentic, if they don’t think it’s enough, the internet will know.

That’s why we’re such a big proponent on authentic giving strategies. They’re systemic and easy-to-absorb, yet engaging and powerful when you think of their potential for impact when multiplied. It’s a modernized version of CSR, with a pure intention – just give.

Q: What is an easy way to make an impact that companies aren’t doing enough of?

A: Companies have done a poor job of engaging their employees in their impact. Again, that’s been the shortcoming of CSR. It’s a one-sided approach with a result you only see through a paper report. And it’s not to say that the objective isn’t there- it’s not to say that having some kind of social component is a bad thing- but we’re beyond that.

CSR was a great demonstration of a company’s responsibility to society when it first appeared, but now people are ready to do more. If more companies recognized that their employees are no longer interested in employer-provided health care but making a difference in the world, if they created a way to channel their energy into purpose alongside profit, I think we’d all be better off.

Q: What are you excited about right now?

A: The social disruption – a new slew of young, socially conscious individuals that want to make a difference and with their mission in mind, will disrupt all aspects of society. Every structure is ripe for the changes they will bring, not just industry.

In my family, I’ve witnessed firsthand the desire for my daughter to donate her earnings from the Tooth Fairy at just six years old. I know I wasn’t thinking about charity with the $2 I found under my pillow when I was her age. They will account for 50% of the workforce by 2020 so we’re only beginning to see their influence.


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The Health Benefits of Practicing Compassion

By Deepak Chopra, MD

Compassion is changing before our eyes. A religious concept associated with Jesus and Buddha (known as “the Compassionate One”) is being researched today through brain scans and positive psychology. In positive psychology your aim is to reach a state of well-being. The actions of a compassionate person, being kind and sympathetic, turn out to bring personal benefits as well. This is one way that a spiritual value acquires practical, everyday value.

As part of a compassionate lifestyle, a person:

Lets go of judgment

Is more accepting of others

Appreciates how other people feel

Tries to help in difficult situations

Acts as a sympathetic listener

Renounces anger and aggression

Works to maintain a harmonious, peaceful atmosphere at home and at work.

The reason a compassionate lifestyle leads to greater psychological well-being may be that the act of giving is equally or more pleasurable than receiving. A brain-imaging study led by neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health showed that the “pleasure centers” in the brain—the parts that are active when we experience things like dessert, money, and sex—are equally active vicariously. We feel pleasure, for example, when we observe someone giving money to charity as if we were receiving the money ourselves. A complementary study at the University of British Columbia showed that even in children as young as two, giving treats to others increased the givers’ happiness more than receiving treats themselves.

In a description written from the viewpoint of positive psychology, compassion is “an evolved part of human nature, rooted in our brain and biology.” In other words, as human beings evolved, we became more aware of the good that results from empathy and kindness. We developed an alternative to selfishness. Studies have suggested that compassion is indeed an evolved part of human nature, vital to good health and even to the survival of our species. Compassion motivated 26.5 percent of Americans to volunteer in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

A recent study found that the pupils of infants’ eyes widened when they saw someone in need—a sign of concern—but their pupils would shrink when they could help that person—or when they saw someone else help, suggesting that they felt better. (Babies as young as four or five months will try to help their mothers pick up something dropped on the floor.) They seem to care primarily for the other person and not themselves. It was calming to see the person’s suffering being alleviated, whether or not they were the ones who did it.

In the same vein, research by David Rand at Harvard University shows that adults’ and children’s first impulse is to help others, not to compete with them. Other research by Dale Miller at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business backs this up. Compassion involves feeling what someone else is feeling, which forms an invisible bond. But the bond is more than mental or emotional. Research in positive psychology suggests that connecting with others in a meaningful way helps us enjoy better physical health and speeds up recovery from disease; it may even lengthen our lifespan.

These physiological findings go back almost 30 years to experiments at Harvard where people watched a film on the charitable work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who devoted her life to the poorest children in India. As they watched, the viewers’ heart rate and blood pressure changed in a positive direction.

More sophisticated measurements are available to us now. New research at UCLA and the University of North Carolina evaluated the levels of cellular inflammation in people who describe themselves as “very happy.” Inflammation is suspected to be at the root of cancer and other diseases and is generally high in people who live under a lot of stress. We might expect that inflammation would be lower for people with higher levels of happiness. But there was an important distinction. People who were happy because they lived a life of pleasure (also known as “hedonic happiness”) had high inflammation levels, while people who were happy because they lived a life of purpose or meaning (also known as “eudaimonic happiness”) had low inflammation levels. A life of meaning and purpose is one focused less on satisfying oneself and more on others. It is often a life rich in compassion and altruism.

As for longevity, a compassionate lifestyle may be beneficial because it provides a buffer against stress. A recent study conducted on a large population (more than 800 samples) led at the University at Buffalo found that stress was linked to higher mortality rates, but not among those who helped others.

In sum, the spiritual value of compassion has been shown to extend to mind and body as well. It’s in our nature to be sympathetic and kind to others while doing great good to ourselves at the same time.

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. Join me at The Chopra Center’s Second Annual Global Meditation on July 11, 2015.

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What Nonprofits Want Companies to Know About Giving

givingprograms.jpgCorporate giving programs
are an increasingly central part of
social impact
efforts by businesses across the world. Employees want to give back, and companies are making that ever easier with tools like automatic payroll deductions, matching gifts and crowdfunding campaigns. Modern approaches have made donating more convenient for employees, which spurs greater spikes in overall giving.

But what works best for nonprofits? We asked leaders at several top nonprofits – International Medical Corps, Feeding America, Save the Children, UNICEF and America’s Charities to list the top three things that they wish donors knew about how they could be more impactful with getting more money to nonprofits faster. Here’s what we heard:

    Year-round donations, e.g., payroll deduction or monthly giving, are desired and provide consistent support.
      Providing complete donor contact data is key to relationship building and stewardship.
      Giving via a platform that is user-friendly for both donor and nonprofit

Let’s be clear: how you give matters.

The most direct and cost-efficient route that donations take from giver to recipient is the goal. “No matter how you donate, nonprofits always incur a cost for processing donations, recording donor information, preparing tax receipts, and other administrative costs,” said Jim Starr, President and CEO, America’s Charities. “But some donation methods cost nonprofits more than others.”

Starr notes that workplace giving sometimes costs as low as 4% of the donation, often covered by companies so that 100% of an employee’s donation goes to charity, making it one of the most cost-efficient ways to support nonprofits. On top of that, companies often offer to match employee donations, allowing donors to double the charity’s impact. Compare that to credit card, PayPal, and check donations, which usually cost between 15-30% of a donation, or gifts made through a charity’s fundraising event, which costs nearly 50% (!)

The form of your gift matters, too.

Most nonprofits prefer an unrestricted donation that empowers them to direct funds where they’re needed most.

“Unrestricted funds means we will have the ability to respond quickly when disasters strike; meet new needs in chaotic environments; or innovate programs to meet the local context,” says Erica L. Tavares, Senior Director, Institutional Advancement, International Medical Corps. “Unrestricted funds also allow us to leverage larger, institutional funding that often requires a match – and in fact, for every unrestricted dollar International Medical Corps receives, we can unlock, on average, $30 in funding and donated medicines and supplies.”

The timing of your donation also matters.

But ultimately, giving in any capacity – and giving consistently – is the name of the game.

“Whether donations arrive by check, electronic fund transfer or gifts of stock, the format is less important than the consistent support from our donor partners,” says Ashby Brown, Manager, Employee Engagement at Save the Children. “Recurring donations (rather than one-time gifts) are particularly helpful because it means we can focus our efforts providing assistance where it is needed most around the world, rather than spending time on fundraising.

Many nonprofits must wait until the end of year or for episodic events to receive a large share of their donations. But “workplace giving provides reliable funding year-round,” says Starr. “This allows charities to plan how to use donors’ gifts more strategically and make a stronger impact.”

Teresa Gruber, Manager of Employee Engagement, at Feeding America agrees that timeliness of receiving donations makes a difference. “For Feeding America, having the donations right away mean that we have funds to support food donations and program implementation at our network of food banks. We are able to help people more quickly.”

Recurring donations also allows for a deeper relationship with a nonprofit that allows givers to be tuned in to impact. “It means donors will respond quickly with us when a disaster does strike, so that our doctors and nurses have the resources and tools they need to save lives when they arrive on the frontlines,” says Tavares.

Tavares believes that a strong relationship with donors helps them understand how International Medical Corps works and how that work makes an impact on survivors of disasters and underserved communities worldwide. “When donors give to International Medical Corps, they are making an investment in the success of our programs. We believe in turn, they deserve clear, concise communications about what their donations, pooled with other funds, have accomplished.

Gruber agrees that the ease of pulling information from online platforms and having access to donor data can help connect donors to impact. “We want to share communications with the donor and steward them so they know how their investment is making a difference in assisting those who struggle with hunger,” says Gruber.

Open up all methods for giving

No matter how you get there, nonprofits really want one thing from your giving program: your money. The sooner they have it, the faster they can get to impact.

The concerns and priorities of nonprofits when it comes to giving is why Causecast has made every form of giving accessible and instant for the companies it serves through its online giving and volunteer platform. We offer more frequent processing options, don’t make nonprofits have to register with our system, have no hidden fees, and we write checks for nonprofits on behalf of companies so that nonprofits don’t have to wait to receive funds.

Ultimately, when managing a giving program, you need to ensure that your donor dollars get where they need to go as fast and as regularly as possible so that you can have more impact in less time. Flexibility, speed and consistency are what helps nonprofits most and best supports them to serve their missions.

Sign up for our free webinar on July 27th at 11am PT / 2pm ET

“Corporate Activist Employees: Your New CSR Team”

Register for the Webinar

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How to Optimize Car Dealership Websites

Posted by sherrybonelli

Getting any local business to rank high on Google is becoming more and more difficult, but one of the most competitive — and complex — industries for local SEO are car dealerships. Today’s car shoppers do much of their research online before they even step into a dealership showroom. (And many people don’t even know what type of car they even want when they begin their search.)

According to Google, the average car shopper only visits two dealerships when they’re searching for a new vehicle. That means it’s even more important than ever for car dealerships to show up high in local search results.

However, car dealerships are more complex than the average local business — which means their digital marketing strategies are more complex, as well. First, dealers often sell new vehicles from several different manufacturers with a variety of makes and models. Next, because so many people trade in their old cars when they purchase new cars, car dealers also sell a variety of used vehicles from even more manufacturers. Additionally, car dealerships also have a service department that offers car maintenance and repairs — like manufacturer warranty work, oil changes, tire rotations, recall repairs, and more. (The search feature on a car dealer’s website alone is a complex system!)

Essentially, a car dealer is like three businesses in one: they sell new cars, used cars, AND do vehicle repairs. This means your optimization strategy must also be multi-faceted, too.

Also, if you look at the car dealerships in your city, you will probably find at least one dealership with multiple locations. These multi-location family of dealerships may be in the same city or in surrounding cities.

Additionally, depending on that family of dealerships, they may have one website or they might have different websites for each location. (Many auto manufacturers require dealers to have separate websites if they sell certain competitors’ vehicles.)

So if you’re helping car dealers with SEO, you must be thinking about the various manufacturers, the types of vehicles being sold (new and used), the repair services being offered, the number of websites and locations you’ll be managing, manufacturer requirements — among other things.

So what are some of the search optimization strategies you should use when working with a car dealership? Here are some SEO recommendations.

Google My Business

Google My Business has been shown to have a direct correlation to local SEO — especially when it comes to showing up in the Google Local 3-Pack.

One important factor with Google My Business is making sure that the dealership’s information is correct and contains valuable information that searchers will find helpful. This is important for competitive markets — especially when only a handful of sites show up on the first page of Google search results. Here are some key Google My Business features to take advantage of:

Name, address, and phone number

Ensure that the dealership’s name, address and phone number is correct. (If you have a toll-free number, make sure that your LOCAL area code phone number is the one listed on your Google My Business listing.) It’s important that this information is the same on all local online directories that the dealership is listed on.


Google My Business allows you to select categories (a primary category and additional categories) to describe what your dealership offers. Even though the categories you select affect local rankings, keep in mind that the categories are just one of many factors that determine how you rank in search results.

These categories help connect you with potential customers that are searching for what your car dealership sells. You can select a primary category and additional categories – but don’t go overboard by selecting too many categories. Be specific. Choose as few categories as possible to describe the core part of your dealership’s business. If the category you want to use isn’t available, choose a general category that’s still accurate. You can’t create your own categories. Here are some example categories you could use:Car DealerUsed Car DealerBMW dealerKeep in mind that if you’re not ranking as high as you want to rank, changing your categories may improve your rankings. You might need to tweak your categories until you get it right. If you add or edit one of your categories, you might be asked by Google to verify your business again. (This just helps Google confirm that your business information is accurate.)

Google uses photo engagement on Google My Business to help rank businesses in local search. Show photos of the new and used cars you have on your dealership’s lot — and be sure to update them frequently. After you make a sale, make sure you get a photo consent form signed and ask if you can take a picture of your happy customers with their new car to upload to Google My Business (and your other social media platforms.)

If you’re a digital marketing agency or a sales manager at a dealership, getting your salespeople to upload photos to Google My Business can be challenging. Steady Demand’s LocalPics tool makes it easy for salespeople to send pictures of happy customers in their new cars by automatically sending text message reminders. You simply set the frequency of these reminders. The LocalPics tool automatically sends text messages to the sales reps reminding them to submit their photos:

All the sales reps have to do is save their customers’ photos to their phone. You set up text message reminders to each sales rep and when they get the text message reminder, the sales team simply has to go into their smartphone’s pictures and upload their images through the text message, and the photos are automatically posted to the dealership’s Google My Business listing! (They can also text photos to their Google My Business anytime they want as well — they don’t have to wait for the reminder text messages.)


Google recently began allowing businesses to upload 30-second videos to their Google My Business listing. Videos are a great way to show off the uniqueness of your dealership. These videos auto-play on mobile devices — which is where many people do their car searching on — so you should include several videos to showcase the cars and what’s going on at your dealership.


Online reviews are crucial for when people search for the right type of car AND the dealership they should purchase that car from. Make sure you ask happy customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business listing and ensure that you keep up by responding to all reviews left on your Google My Business listing.

Questions & Answers

The Google My Business Q&A feature has been around for several months, yet many businesses still don’t know about it — or pay attention to it. It’s important that you are constantly looking at questions that are being asked of your dealership and that you promptly answer those questions with the correct answer.

Just like most things on Google My Business, anyone can answer questions that are asked — and that means that it’s easy for misinformation to get out about your dealership and the cars on your lot. Make sure you have a person dedicated on your team to watch the Q&As being asked on your listing.

Also, be sure to frequently check your GMB dashboard. Remember, virtually anyone can make changes to your Google My Business listing. You want to check to make sure nobody has changed your information without you knowing.

Online directories (especially car directories)

If you’re looking for ways to improve your dealership’s rankings and backlink profile, online automotive directories are a great place to start. Submitting your dealership’s site to an online automotive directory or to an online directory that has an automotive category can help build your backlink profile. Additionally, many of these online directories show up on the first page of Google search results, so if your dealership isn’t listed on them, you’re missing out.

There are quite a few paid-for and free automotive online directories. Yelp, YellowPages, Bing, etc. are some of the larger general online directories that have dedicated automotive categories you can get listed on for free. Make sure your dealership’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistent with the information that you have listed on Google My Business.

Online reviews

Online reviews are important. If your dealership has bad reviews, people are less likely to trust you. There are dedicated review sites for vehicle reviews and car dealership reviews. Sites like Kelley Blue Book, DealerRater,, and Edmunds are just a few sites that make it easy for consumers to check out dealership reviews. DealerRater even allows consumers to list — and review — the employees they worked with at a particular dealership:

If they have a negative experience with your dealership — or one of your employees — you can bet that unhappy customer will leave a review. (And remember that reviews are not only left about your new and used car sales — they are also left about your repair shop as well!)

There are software platforms you can install on your dealership’s site that make it easier for customers to leave reviews for your dealership. These tools also make it simple to monitor and deflect negative reviews to certain review websites. (It’s important to note that Google recently changed their policies and no longer support “review gating” — software that doesn’t allow a negative review to be posted on Google My Business.)

NOTE: Many automotive manufacturers offer dealerships coop dollars that can be used for advertising and promotions; however, sometimes they make it easier for the dealers to get that money if they use specific turnkey programs from manufacturer-approved vendors. As an example, if you offer a reputation marketing software tool that can help the dealership get online reviews, the dealership may be incentivized to use DealerRater instead because they’ve been “approved” by the manufacturer. (And this goes for other marketing and advertising as well — not just reputation marketing.)

Select long-tail keywords

Selecting the right keywords has always been a part of SEO. You want to select the keywords that have a high search frequency, mid-to-low competitiveness, ones that have direct relevance to your website’s content — and are keyword phrases that your potential car buyers are actually using to search for the cars and services your dealership offers.

When it comes to selecting keywords for your site’s pages, writing for long-tailed keywords (e.g. “2018 Ford Mustang GT features”) have a better chance of ranking highly in Google search results than a short-tailed and generic keyword phrase like “Ford cars.”

Other car-related search keywords — like “MSRP” and “list prices” — are keywords you should add to your arsenal.

Optimize images

According to Google, searches for “pictures of [automotive brand]” is up 37% year-over-year. This means when you’re uploading various pictures of the cars for sale on your car lot, be sure to include the words “pictures of” and the brand name, make, and model where appropriate.

For instance, if you’re showing the interior of the 2018 Dodge Challenger, you may want to name the actual picture image file “picture-of-dodge-challenger-2018-awd-front-seat-interior.png” and use the alt tag “Pictures of Dodge Challenger 2018 AWD Front Seat Interior for Sale in Cedar Rapids.”

As with everything SEO-related, use discretion with the “pictures of” strategy. Don’t overdo it, but it should be a part of your image optimization strategy to a certain extent on specific car overview pages.

Optimize for local connections

One thing many car dealerships fail to realize is how important it is to make local connections — not only for local SEO purposes but also for community trust and support as well. You should make a connection on at least one of the pages on your site that relates to what’s going on in your local community/city.

For instance, on your About Us page, you may want to include a link to a city-specific page that talks about what’s going on in your city. Is there a July 4th parade? And if so, are you having a float or donating a convertible for the town’s mayor to ride in? If you sponsor a local charity or belong to the Chamber of Commerce, it’d be great to mention it on one of these localized pages (mentioning your city’s name, of course) and talk about what your dealership’s role is and what you do. Is there an upcoming charity walk or do you donate to your local animal shelter? Share pictures (and be sure to use alt tags) and write about what you’re doing to help.

All of this information not only helps beef up your local SEO because you’re using the city’s name you’re trying to rank for, but it also creates good will for future customers. Additionally, you can create links to these various charities and organizations and ask that they, in turn, create a link to your site. Local backlinking at its best!


If you want to increase the chances of Google — and the other search engines — understanding what your site’s pages are about, using schema markup will give you a leg-up over your competition. (And chances are your car dealership competitors aren’t yet using schema markup.)

You’ll want to start by using the Vehicle “Type” schema and then markup each particular car using the Auto schema markup JSON-LD code. You can find the guidelines for using Schema Markup for Cars on Below is an example of what JSON-LD schema markup looks like for a 2009 Volkswagen Golf:

Listen to the SEO for Car Dealerships podcast episode to learn EVEN MORE!

If you want to learn even more information about the complexities of car dealerships and search optimization strategies, be sure to listen to my interview on MozPod’s SEO for Car Dealerships.

In this podcast we’ll cover even more topics like:

What NOT to include in your page’s title tagHow to determine if you really own your dealership’s website or notHow to handle it if your dealership moves locationsWhy using the manufacturer-provided car description information verbatim is a bad ideaDoes “family owned” really matter?How to handle car dealers with multiple locationsHow to get creative with your Car Service pages by showing off your employeesWhy blogging is a must-do SEO strategy and some topic ideas to get you startedWays to get local backlinksTips for getting online reviewsWhat other digital marketing strategies you should try and whyAnd more

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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18 celebrity dads share how fatherhood has changed their lives — and the quotes will melt your heart

ryan goslingPascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The sacrifices mothers make for their children are widely acknowledged and respected, and sometimes we give don’t give fathers the credit they deserve.

Known for their “dad bods” and their incessant telling of “dad jokes,” dads are sometimes used for a good punchline. But science has shown that the more active a father is in their child’s life, the better off the child will be. So maybe you should cut your dad a little slack the next time he calls a fake noodle an “impasta.”

With Father’s Day coming up, it’s time to show dads a little more respect. These quotes from celebrity dads will make you laugh, cry, and probably want to call your dad.

Chris Pratt said nothing he’s ever done means as much as being a dad.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Chris Pratt and Anna Faris may have split, but they’ve remained dedicated parents to their five-year-old son, Jack. The two went through a scary experience when Jack was born two months early, and the experience has motivated Pratt to get involved with the March of Dimes charity. In a 2013 event for the organization, he shared how much fatherhood means to him.

“I’ve gotten to jump out of helicopters and do daring stunts and play baseball in a professional stadium, but none of them mean anything compared to being somebody’s daddy.”

Ryan Gosling wants to be the dad his kids deserve.
Getty Images/Frazer Harrison

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes maintain a low-profile relationship, but that didn’t stop him from gushing about his “dream babies” — daughters Amanda and Esmeralda — when talking to GQ in 2017. The actor talked about what motivates him to be the best father he can be.

“When you meet your kids, you realize that they deserve great parents. And then you have your marching orders, and you have to try and become the person that they deserve,” Gosling said.

John Legend loves his kids, even though he joked that they haven’t earned it yet.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Thankfully, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen let us in on so many adorable moments with daughter Luna and her new brother Miles. They’re clearly loving parents, but Legend couldn’t resist joking with Stephen Colbert in 2017 that babies haven’t really done anything to earn that love yet.

“It’s a different kind of love. It’s very pure, it’s unconditional, but they haven’t earned it yet. They didn’t do anything, they just exist and you love them completely, but it’s not built on anything other than their existence,” he told the late night host. On a more serious note, Legend went on to say about the first time he held his daughter, “it’s beautiful, it’s very emotional and it brings you and your wife closer together. It’s a very powerful feeling to see the product of your love right there in front of you.”

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Warning: These 12 Psychological Triggers Will Instantly Skyrocket Your Affiliate Sales

I have a confession to make.

I just cannot resist buying that extra chocolate bar while paying for my grocery at the cash counter of my local superstore.

Or taking the offer to upgrade my Big Mac meal even though I can rarely eat the regular sized one.

Or going for the large Latte at the coffee shop even when I struggle to drink to the regular size.

Even if I don’t need it, even if I don’t plan to buy it, even if I try not to buy it.

I still buy them. Every single time.

And the store owner knows it.

In fact, he knows I’m not alone.

There are hundreds of thousands of people like me all over the world.

Which is why retail stores everywhere make extra sales by taking advantage of impulse buying and upselling.

That right there is a practical example of how understanding human psychology and emotions can help you drive more action and boost sales.

Sales, in fact, is all about psychology.

Research shows that 8 out of 10 buying decisions are based on emotions, not logic.


Source: Salesforce


Buying that extra chocolate bar doesn’t make sense. Upgrading to an even bigger coffee isn’t logical. Taking a slightly larger burger meal that is even more unhealthy even when I’m not that hungry is just dumb.

But I still do it.

Thousands of people do it.

Because sales are driven by emotions.

As an affiliate marketer, the more you understand human psychology the better you’ll get at driving more conversions, closing more sales and banking higher commissions.

That’s the difference between you and super-successful affiliate marketers.

They understand human psychology and know how to use emotions to their advantage.

But I’m not here to turn you into a psychologist or a hypnotist.

Can’t do it with just one article.

But I can share a few psychological triggers that you can apply to your affiliate and online marketing strategy and immediately see results.

Don’t believe me?

Keep reading (with the intention to take action).


What You’ll Learn In This Post

How to convince people to buy from you even if they don’t need your product
The simple technique that triggers lazy people into action
How to help your prospects overcome purchase anxiety
How smart marketers increase repeat sales


1. Scare Your Prospects Into Take Action (…That Benefits Them)

Fear is a powerful emotion that drives many of the decisions we make in our daily lives. When fear takes over, we look for safety.

This has a very real impact on businesses and buyer purchase decisions. For example, The FBI reported that gun sales went up by 12.3% in Florida and 3.4% all over USA immediately after the deadly Parkland school shooting incident.

Advertisers and marketers routinely use fear in their campaigns to drive more sales, like this advertisement for example.



Like it or not, but these campaigns usually work because people don’t act rationally when they’re afraid.

Here’s another example of a public service campaign using fear to convince motorcyclists to wear helmets.


Source: AIP Foundation


But there are other, not so dark, ways to use fear in your marketing campaigns.

As an affiliate marketer, you can play on your audience’s fear of missing out (FOMO) to drive more sales. Studies suggest that around 69% of millennials experience FOMO while using the internet and 60% of them make reactive purchases mainly driven by fear of missing out on a good deal. uses this technique in a very subtle but effective way.



Using one-time offers (OTO) in a sales funnel is another example of how affiliate marketers use fear. OTO’s are heavily discounted deals that affiliate marketers offer if someone buys their main product.

Marketers also frequently use limited time offers and discounts to scare their audience into taking action.

I get these kinds of emails all the time.



Here’s another one



Marketers keep doing this and it works.

However, use fear with caution.

Because using it excessively, and not actually living up to your promise, hurts your credibility and makes your message ineffective.

Fake Fear with bullsh*t scarcity and deadlines that don’t really exist aren’t cool. They just make you look scammy and your audience lose faith in you, so use fear in a respectable and honest way.


2. Demonstrate Contrast To Shake Your Buyer

I often say this in my posts that people don’t buy products. They buy better versions of themselves.

They buy a product because they believe it’ll take them from their existing state to a better and more desirable state.

It’ll solve a problem or make them happier or richer or healthier.


Source: DigitalMarketer


Your job as a marketer is to show how your product can improve the life of your buyer.

Using contrasts is a great way to do that.

Adding contrast to your marketing message simply means that you show the “before” and “after” state of your buyer in the same picture.

You make them dream and show them how your product will drastically improve their current state or protect them from an undesirable situation.

For example, look at this pop-up that Chelsea (former staff writer at NicheHacks) uses on her copywriting website



In just a couple of sentences (from meeehhh to Holy Sh*t) she gets her point across and makes her prospects dream.

Here’s an even better example of using visuals to demonstrate the “before” and “after” effect of your offer.



The core benefit of this traffic alert app is that it saves time and gets you home faster.

But instead of focusing on its features this ad makes the buyer dream. It shows them how their lives would improve by using this app.

That’s the power of contrast.


3. Use Their Greed To Your Advantage

“You never get enough of what you don’t really want!”

I recently read this somewhere and it really hit me hard.

Think about it.

People who’re already rich, want to become richer.

Those with power, want more power.

It’s a never-ending desire that’s mainly driven by greed.

And we all have it to different extents.

We’re all greedy by instinct, just admit it.

That’s why we’re still drawn to “Buy One Get One Free!” offers despite every brand on the planet using them.

In fact, almost all marketing is driven by greed to a large extent.

But how can you use this emotion to your advantage as an affiliate marketer?

Just look around, most marketers are already doing it.

For example, almost every affiliate marketer I know offers bonuses and extras while promoting digital products.

Here’s an old email I got from Stuart during one of his product promotions.



You can find the same technique in action on most digital product sales pages



Even Amazon uses it



But you don’t always have to offer bonuses or free products to take advantage of greed in your prospects.

If you can prove that the value of your product is significantly higher than the price you’re asking for, you can still trigger the same emotion and make users take action.

For example, this $1 sign up offer from Digital Marketer is unbelievably attractive and clearly offers MUCH more value than its price.



There are numerous other ways you can use this particular emotion in your marketing strategy.


4. Accelerate Sales by Using Scarcity & Urgency

Using scarcity is a great way to create a sense of urgency in your visitors.

And urgency is the catalyst that speeds up the buying process and forces your prospects to take action.

All successful physical and digital product sellers do it.

Like Amazon, for example



The subject line of this email by Jeff Walker is another good example



Very intelligently, Jeff has created a subject line that creates a sense of urgency in the readers.

You can apply the same to your “calls to action” buttons and blog post headlines as well

Use words like “Now”, “Hurry”, “Quick” to make your calls to action more urgent.

For example, instead of using “Join Us” use “Join Us Now!”


Source: TechWyse


Product creators and affiliate marketers use scarcity in almost every campaign.

For example, why do you think people have limited time product launches?



Can’t they just leave registration open forever?

Of course, they can.

But people are lazy and smart marketers know it. If left to our own devices with no urgency or deadlines most of us will never make a decision and instead put it off till “later” or a “better time” which never comes.

And that isn’t good for your prospect in getting their problems solved (the quicker the better) or for you as a business who needs to make sales to pay your bills.

Which is why a fundamental rule of marketing is that there must always be urgency and there must always be a deadline.


5. Use Novelty To Attract Repeat Buyers

All of us like new things.

A new iPhone every year, a new laptop, a new car every few years.

The list goes on and on.

Do we really need a new iPhone every year? No

Is there really something drastically different in every new iPhone from the previous version? No

Does it make our lives significantly better than the previous version? No

Then why do we buy it?

The answer lies in a research by Dr. Emrah Duzel.

He concluded that we like things that are new and novel because they trigger a dopamine release (a chemical in the brain that makes us happy and motivated).

In marketing terms, this means that you constantly need to renew and refresh your message.

Why else do you think Pepsi keeps coming up with new slogans every year?

This is exactly the reason why marketers keep releasing new versions and upgrades of their products every few months.

They sell the same old products with minor upgrades

But people buy them again and again because they perceive them to be valuable.

Stuart’s product “Find Your Niche in 7 Easy Steps” is a very good example of this phenomenon

Every year Stuart makes this product available for download for a few days after making minor updates to its content.

Yet, the same people who already have this product ask him whether they should buy it again or not.

In fact, many of them do.

This makes no sense.

Stuart even tells them NOT to buy it again because if they had actually followed the instructions in that eBook they would’ve unearthed a million niches in 1 year.

But they didn’t take action.

Yet, when the product becomes available again with minor updates, they’re ready to buy it again thinking that somehow buying it a second time will help them when all they have to do is take action on the first version they have.

Insane, right?

But that’s human psychology for you.

People perceive new things as better.

Take advantage of this behaviour in an ethical way. Don’t trick people into buying the same product over and over again if there’s no changes in it.

Though at the same time if you’ve updated the product and there’s fresh information in there then there’s no harm in someone purchasing to get the updated info.

Here’s another example.

Over the last couple of years, you might’ve noticed many bloggers replace blog post date with “Last Updated”



What does this do to your brain?

Even if there’s no change in the content, you immediately think this information is more up to date and valuable.

If the same post had its original publish date of 2016, it might’ve appeared outdated.

So here’s the marketing takeaway for you.

Keep renewing and updating your products and affiliate offers.

Even if you’re promoting the same products, promote them in different ways and make them look new.


6. Hack Your Prospects’ Minds With the Halo Effect

In simple words, Halo Effect refers to our tendency of judging a person’s unknown qualities based on our knowledge of a known quality.

For example, if someone’s physically attractive, we assume they’re intelligent as well.


Source: VeryWellMind


Just because a marketer is successful at big product launches and promotions, we assume he’s also more intelligent, credible, and happier than us.

It’s not always true, of course. But that’s how the human brain works.

And you need to take advantage of it.

It’s a well-known human behavior that advertisers and marketers have been using for years.

Celebrity endorsements are the most common example of this.

Brands associate themselves with celebrities because it makes them likable and more credible.

So how does this practically impact you as an affiliate marketer?

In several ways actually.

The appearance of your product, its branding, presentation everything has an impact on how people perceive it.

Even if your product is great and offers lots of value, people might perceive it as unreliable if your landing page isn’t professionally designed or if the product doesn’t have endorsements.

On the contrary, if a well-known marketer launches a new product, people perceive it to be valuable even before exploring it.

This is why a product that’s endorsed by the marketers usually has MUCH higher sales than a product with no endorsements.

The same effect is in play when marketers borrow credibility from other reliable brands



The Halo Effect has a direct impact on your affiliate sales.

For example, if a customer purchases a product you’re promoting and likes it, he’s much likelier to buy from you again even if your new product has nothing to do with his previous purchase.

Based on his previous experience, the customer assumes that every product you promote is worth buying.

So be careful about choosing your product promotions.


7. Use Reciprocity To Drive More Action

No matter what news channels tell you, humans are still compassionate and kind beings at heart.

This is evident from our universal behavior of reciprocity.

Reciprocity means that when someone gives us something for free, we’re compelled to return the favor.

You might’ve seen perfume sellers give free samples to everyone even before they buy anything.

That’s reciprocity in action.

When you get free perfume samples, you feel compelled to buy from the same shop.

How does this translate into online marketing?

Lead magnets!

Lead magnets are free content resources that marketers give away to turn visitors into subscribers.



If you simply ask your website visitors to sign up to your email list, they won’t.

But when you offer them a free content resource, they feel compelled to sign up.

This is the same principle content marketing uses to generate sales.

The article you’re reading right now took hours of research and cost Stuart several hundred dollars.

Yet he’s given it away for free.

His blog is full of actionable content and marketing advice that many people charge hundreds of dollars for.

But he’s giving away for free.

Is he stupid?


When people keep consuming high-quality marketing content for free, guess who they’ll be buying from when Stuart launches a paid product.

It’s a proven model that’s been working like a charm.

Studies suggest that content marketing results in 88% and 67% more leads for B2B and B2C businesses respectively.

Apply it to your affiliate marketing model as well.

Give away free value and build trust.

People will return the favor by opening their wallets to you.


8. Apply Reverse Psychology To Open Your Visitors’ Eyes

You must’ve seen these pop-ups on different blogs



They’re everywhere.

And they’re very effective.

Partly because they’re so huge and in your face but mainly because of the reverse psychology used in their call to action.

Here’s another one.

This time it’s a slide-in box instead of a pop-up but the call to action is based on the same technique.



Why does this work so well?

Because instead of the usual positive calls to action that mention desirable actions like “Join Now”, “Yes I’m in!”, “Please send me the eBook” etc. negative calls to action highlight undesirable outcomes.

They highlight what the user is missing out on.

Using reverse psychology opens the eyes of your visitors because it makes them realize what they’re missing out on.

Using this technique increases the effectiveness of the positive call to action because the negative statement pushes people away.

For example, in the two screenshots I’ve shared, how would feel clicking on  “No I’ve never had writer’s block”

You’ll be reluctant, like most people.

You can apply this technique to not only your email popups but also to your sales page copy and calls to action.

I particularly liked a sales page that had the “Why This Is Not For You” section before “Why You Should Buy”

Under that heading, the page had provocative copy that hits the readers hard.

For example here’s one of the points I remember

“This course is NOT for you if you’re and want everything to be spoon fed to you”

“This is NOT for you if you’re short-sighted and greedy and just looking to make a quick buck instead of building a long-term and evergreen business”

This copy is provocative

And it’s designed to do exactly that.

Because it pushes people towards the positive action and increases conversions.


9. Disrupt Then Reframe (DTR) To Change Perceptions

DTR is a really interesting technique that you might already be using unconsciously in your daily life.

But advertisers and marketers use it intentionally because it breaks down any mental barriers that stop people from taking action.

The core idea behind this technique is that you rephrase the action that you want people to take in such a way that it appears unusual and easier.

You disrupt their regular thought process and then reframe the same information in a way that the customer finds easy to accept.

Sounds complex?

Here’s popular experiment that’ll help you understand DTR.

To test the effectiveness of DTR, a group of researchers tasked two teams of undergrads with door to door selling Christmas cards to benefit a charity.

One team simply stated the price of the cards to their prospects which was $3.

The other one, however, used the DTR technique.

They disrupted the prospects’ perception by stating the price as 300 pennies instead of $3 and reframed by adding a small pitch “it’s a bargain”

The results?

The second team closed a whopping 70% sales as compared to the first team which sold to only 30%.

How do you apply this to your affiliate marketing strategy?

There are numerous ways.

But here’s a really easy to understand example that I’ve seen many marketers do.

Simple reframe your total product price into per day price, like this.


Source: Nickkolenda


Culligan used the same strategy to make its $29/month service look more affordable by pitching it as “less than a dollar per day”


Source: KissMetrics


This doesn’t change the price of your product, but it makes your prospects view the price differently.

And research shows that they’re likelier to respond positively to it.


10. Use Social Proof To Relax Your Prospects

This one’s pretty easy to understand and almost every marketer uses it.

But I need to mention it because it’s so important.

Using social proof is another way of borrowing credibility from others.

You show your prospects that there are examples of people who’ve used your product and they love it.

It comes in various forms.

Most marketers use testimonials for social proof.



Others use case studies to demonstrate how people are benefiting from their products.



Even the number of subscribers or customers mentioned on a landing page is a form of social proof.



Using social proof not only gives credibility to your product but also eases the nerves of your prospects. It has a reassuring effect on most people which reduces their resistance to buying.


11. Apply Secrecy To Earn Big Bucks from Your Customers

“My secret list building strategy revealed!”

“The little-known strategy that brings millions of visitors every month to these websites”

“5 secret money making methods millionaire marketers never share with their followers”

I don’t know about you but I’m sick of these “secret” tactics.

Yet, whenever I see a headline like this I click on it.

As humans, we love to know secrets.

Research shows that people feel closer to someone who shares secrets with them.

It also gives them a sense of being important

This is why private membership groups and exclusive gated content works so well.

Take the example of our own Facebook Mastermind which almost 50,000 active members now.

We promote it as an exclusive closed community of the best niche marketers in the world where newbies can interact with seasoned niche marketing experts, learn from their experiences and seek their guidance that is otherwise unavailable on other public forums. But you can’t join it unless you’re approved by the group admin.

This instantly makes it desirable to new NicheHacks visitors because it gives them the impression of an exclusive value-driven closed community available to members only.

This also fuels the subscriptions to our premium NicheHacks Insider Community, which is a paid membership program.

To take advantage of this human behavior, promote secrecy in your sales content and try to make it look exclusive.



Or use it in your email subjects and headlines to increase CTR

When your audience perceives something to be exclusive, they’re often prepared to pay a higher price for it.

This is the reason why membership sites and subscription-based services have seen explosive growth over the last few years.


12. Have a Higher Purpose To Gain Unconditional Support

Most people buy products because they benefit them in some way.

They spend money on services or products that make them look good, solve a problem or generally make them happier.

But most of us have certain causes, goals, or issues very close to our hearts.

For example poverty eradication, or fight against mental illnesses, or gender equality, or animal rights etc.

When brands or marketers tie their marketing strategy with a higher goal, people support them even if they don’t actually need the product.

For example, veganism is a rising trend among millennials and many of them feel strongly about it. This shoe brand naturally appeals to them.



This perfectly ties in with the idea of starting a niche site or a niche business about something that people are passionate about.

A topic that attracts people because they care about it, not just because they can make money from it.

Like this niche site about vegan recipes (a topic that people are passionate about for a number of reasons – health, animal rights etc.)



Feed, an eCommerce retailer is another good example



Every Feed product you buy helps reduce hunger around the world.


This provides additional incentive to buyers who care about fighting global hunger and gives them satisfaction for contributing to a noble cause.


Are You Ready To Hypnotize Your Visitors?

As I said at the start, selling is all about understanding human behavior and psychology.

The more you apply it to your marketing strategy, the better you’ll get at making people take action.

But for that to happen, you need to take action first.

So take a good look at your existing marketing strategy, promotional emails, landing pages, and calls to action and apply the tricks that I’ve shared in this post.

I’ll be waiting to hear your results in the comments.

The post Warning: These 12 Psychological Triggers Will Instantly Skyrocket Your Affiliate Sales appeared first on NicheHacks.

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