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Panera Sweet Facts are making their menu as transparent as ever

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Panera is blowing the doors completely off their menu offering consumers a full transparent view of their menu items with the addition of Sweet Facts cups.

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No more bliss

Everyone has their vice. I usually live blissfully unaware of the sugar content of my drinks. My two favorites are Dr. Pepper and sweet tea… Can you tell I live in Texas?

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But, like they (I’m still not sure who they are) say, ignorance is bliss and Panera is on the war path to ruin everyone’s sugary drink bliss with their new cups.

Viva the tea revolution

Panera brags on the absence of artificial food additives and genetically modified ingredients in their food which is what makes it “clean.”

Now, they have decided to take their cleanliness a step further. The restaurant started their beverage revolution by cleaning their drink selection.

The first step was to post the caloric and added sugars information of their drinks (including soda fountains) and launch a new line of iced teas and lemonades in their stores.

But the revolution didn’t stop there. Panera’s most recent steps to clean food and drinks have resulted in new cups. They won’t be as controversial as Starbucks’ holiday cups but they might cause you some internal strife. The cups will have the nutritional information for every beverage they sell. Can you say guilt trip?

Decade in the making

Panera’s founder, chairman, and CEO, Ron Shaich, was reported as saying that Panera’s aim isn’t to be the food police so that they can tell people what to do or not to do, but that they do think that consumers should have greater awareness on what’s in their food — and in their drinks.

Shaich believes in consumer awarenes so much so that Panera has taken over 10 years to complete the menu cleaning process which led Panera to review more than 450 ingredients across its supply chain.

Ultimately, Panera’s changes all serve to allow consumers to think twice, understand what they’ve got and bring greater awareness to its patrons out of service to them.

New cups

The new cups will make their debut in eight markets this week. The company plans to roll them out nationwide by mid-September.

#PaneraCups

Kiri Isaac is the Web Producer and a Staff Writer at The American Genius and studied communications at Texas A&M. She is fluent in sarcasm and movie quotes and her love language is tacos.

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Business Marketing

The science behind using pictures of people in marketing to convert more leads

(MARKETING) People fear using their picture in social networking profiles, but we make the case not only for using pictures of yourself, but of scrapping stock graphics for photos of people that studies show improve conversion rates in marketing.

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To avatar or not to avatar?

After all of these years of people using the web, the debate continues about whether or not people should use their headshots as their profile pictures and avatars on their blogs and their social networks. Many people are uncomfortable with the way they look in photos, and some are never satisfied with their picture, so they settle for their company logo, a cartoon image, or a random photo to share something about who they are. While some believe the argument is subjective, we would argue otherwise.

It is advisable to use a photo of yourself as your profile picture wherever you go, no matter how unsatisfied you are and how uncomfortable. There are many reasons from making it easier to connect with people offline after talking online, to giving people a better way to connect with you, but a personal side has become expected on social networks and blogs, making a profile picture culturally mandatory.

Throw culture out of the window

So let’s say you’re still uncomfortable advertising your face. I personally hate every picture of me taken since I was 11 and had a bad perm, I get it. Profile pictures can send some people into full fledged panic, and at that point, who cares if web culture dictates a photo?

You should, and here’s why… science.

Science? Yep. Any parent knows intuitively, and scientists have studied for years that babies love pictures of other babies, and part of socializing a child is giving them books with pictures of other babies to connect with, learn from, and see other ethnicities. Babies love looking at other babies, it helps them connect and learn, and believe it or not, many studies show that we don’t evolve past that point in our lives, so, adults love looking at other adults.

More science

If that isn’t enough to convince you to use a profile picture, a recent study shows that a website’s conversion rate can be skyrocketed by using human faces. According to KISSmetrics.com, using human faces “get your prospects to focus more and this causes them to draw towards a common point of interest. It doesn’t get more real than that.”

The company cites an A/B test on Medalia.net, an online art shop, which presented paintings from artists on their homepage, and during testing, they swapped out the photos of the paintings with photos of the artists hoping to increase user engagement. KISSmetrics said, “Making this small but relevant change sent their conversion rate through the roof – something they didn’t expect. Their site experienced a whopping 95% increase in conversions!.”

Reading between the lines

Using a photo in your profile pictures is important, it allows people to connect with you, just like babies connect with other babies through photos, and website viewers are converted by human photos. But, read between the lines here – using photos of people in marketing is a concept as old as the idea of marketing, and your using people in your blog photos and marketing can improve your conversion over outdated stock graphics. There are legal ways to obtain photos of people (through creative commons), and using photos of your own can have the most meaningful impact.

Whether you’re nervous to share your face with the world or not, web culture dictates that you should and studies show that a percentage of people distrust social networkers without a face shot. Independent of all of that, conversion rates improve when people see other people, as it is easier to connect with over stock graphics or abstract images, so take a leap of faith and put your picture out there, and while you’re at it, try to find ways of using photos of humans in your marketing and blogs.

Just remember – babies love looking at pictures of babies, and we’re all just babies when you boil it down.

This story originally ran here on March 6, 2012.

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Business Marketing

YouTube monetization change crushes smaller content creators

(SOCIAL MEDIA) YouTube has made some cavalier changes to their monetization strategy, kicking the underdog in the gut.

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Amidst much controversy, YouTube has revised the qualifications for monetization through its Partner Program, sparking harsh criticism from lesser-known content creators. YouTube says the new rules are necessary to “curb bad actors, stabilize creator revenue and provide greater assurances to advertisers around where their ads are placed.”

In mid-January, YouTube quietly changed its guidelines, requiring that content creators’ channels accumulate at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year in order to qualify for monetization. Previous rules allowed any channel with at least 10,000 views over its lifetime to qualify, allowing creators to earn money on ads.

The rule change comes amidst a backlash from advertisers, who have been fearful that their ads may appear alongside disturbing and controversial videos, such as the much-publicized Logan Paul video in which the YouTube star finds and mocks the corpse of a person who had committed suicide.

To appease advertisers, YouTube is putting into place monitoring systems in which more videos will be reviewed by human viewers before being paired with ads. In order to streamline this process, YouTube is tightening up the qualifications for partnership.

Creators who do not meet the qualifications received an email from YouTube explaining that the site is putting in place “safeguards… to protect creator revenue across the YouTube ecosystem.” Small creators were given a 30-day grace period to attempt to meet qualifications and reapply.

As you might expect, small content creators were disappointed by the rule. Many have posted angry and sometimes tearful videos, some going so far as to beg users to run their videos in the background while going about their day to help the channel accrue watch hours.

The company admits that many creators will be affected, but that the vast majority of those who will no longer qualify were earning less than $100 a year. They say that 90 percent earned less than $2.50 last month (which proves how difficult it already was to earn on their platform).

YouTube, and many popular content creators with large followings, say that the change was inevitable to keep the site in business. If advertisers lose faith in the site, they argue, they will also lose their biggest content creators.

But many small creators say it’s not about the money. Creator Christine Barger explained “I’ve been a part of YouTube for a really long time, and I’ve finally tried to be part of this platform, just to feel like they don’t care about small creators.”

Other creators encouraged their fellow YouTubers not to be discouraged, and not to focus on the money. Said creator Kiara Nelson in a heartfelt video, “Don’t let the new rules of YouTube keep you from creating the amazing content that you do. Please don’t give up.”

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Business Marketing

MLB Cleveland Indians to finally nix controversial Chief Wahoo logo

(BRANDING) After much dispute, the Cleveland Indians will no longer don the offensive logo on the field – but is such limited progress laudable?

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Major League Baseball and the Cleveland Indians have announced an agreement that spells the end of the on-field uniform presence of the caricature known as “Chief Wahoo” (a cartoon-like depiction of a Native American that has been directly affiliated with the club since 1947), beginning in 2019. A similar version of the caricature appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1932 and it was a popular accompaniment to news of the Indians for decades. It, along with the 1947 version of the Indians logo, is considered to be far more offensive than the current version of the logo.

A polarizing figure in recent years, “Chief Wahoo” continued the tradition of associating the Cleveland major league baseball team with Native American figures since their name change to the Indians in 1915. The Indians, called such diverse names as the Infants, Spiders, Naps, and Blues throughout their early history, are alleged to have changed their name to honor the contributions to Cleveland baseball by Louis Sockalexis, a Native American from the Penobscot tribe, who played baseball in Cleveland from 1887 to 1899.

In recent years, many groups across the nation had protested the continued use of the logo, with little interest expressed by the team in changing either the “Chief Wahoo” logo or its profile on team uniforms and on in-stadium displays. In 2014, then-team president Mark Shapiro, began to reduce the exposure of the “Chief Wahoo” logo, replacing it with a capital-C, in block format. But that reduction did not lead to outright termination, with “Chief Wahoo” displayed on the Cleveland uniform and in-stadium in high profile games, including the 2016 World Series.

After national debate was renewed during that October postseason regarding the appropriateness of the logo, Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred promised at the time to speak to the ownership group about the logo’s future. In April of 2017, Manfred made good on that promise, making public his intention to press the Cleveland ownership to eliminate the logo altogether. After months of discussion, today’s announcement identified the results of those conversations. In a joint statement, Cleveland owner Paul Dolan said “”We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion. While we recognize many of our fans have a long-standing attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”

So this is the point in the story where we can all feel good that a business, which the Cleveland Indians most assuredly are, realized that greater forces than remaining static in the face of history exist, right?

Wrong. It’s like the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

While the logo won’t be seen on the uniforms or in-stadium displays beginning in 2019, “Chief Wahoo” hasn’t left the building or the public consciousness just yet. The Indians will still maintain the trademark, which means that, with the approval of Major League Baseball, they still control how the logo is used.

Maintaining the trademark to the logo is a prudent move for Cleveland—if they abandoned it, the logo could be claimed by another business or organization and be used in nefarious ways. But because they maintain control of the trademark and the logo, they can still create and sell merchandise with the “Chief Wahoo” logo on it. Which they are planning to do, profiting off of items with the “Chief Wahoo” logo on them available for sale at the souvenir shops located inside their home stadium, as well as retail outlets in the northern Ohio area. Major League Baseball has no current plans to make items bearing the “Chief Wahoo” logo available at their fan shops at MLB.com.

So, should we applaud the Indians and Major League Baseball for coming to grips with an outrageously out-of-place logo and banishing it from the field? Only if you think that limited progress is better than none.

While you won’t see it on or around the field in 2019, you can still buy it in the stadium, wear it, and thus continue to propagate a harmful stereotype in the name of team history, fan loyalty, or any one of a number of other worn excuses. The Indians move allows them to continue to profit, and to do so handsomely, thus doing nothing more than sweeping the issue aside in the name of corporate uncomfortability, when what was called for was corporate courage.

Doing the right thing isn’t easy, or popular, it remains the right thing. There’s a difference between worrying about political correctness gone amok and understanding that the times have changed from when your logo was created and deciding to reflect those changes for the better. And the Indians, and by extension Major League Baseball, chose to do the expedient thing and hope that everyone is satisfied, or at least quiet.

And that moribund silence and misplaced satisfaction is the last thing that we can afford.

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