and a New Era of Consumer Power

How many of you heard about the $5 monthly fee that Bank of America introduced two months ago for anyone who uses their debit cards? How many of you heard the news that the same $5 monthly fee was scrapped last week? What happened in between is what’s so amazing about this story., a site created to champion social activism through online petitions, is becoming very powerful. A site that allows anyone to join, start a petition, or sign a current petition, and builds itself right into social media, is worth taking notice of. is just one example of a much larger movement, a movement wherein consumers are gaining more and more power. There have long been people or organizations (Consumer Reports) who have looked out for the little guy. Now, the little guy has a bull horn and he publishes his own content that gets read by the masses.

The little guy is not so little anymore, and companies like Bank of America and Netflix are slowly figuring that out. Not only are there more choices than ever before, but those choices are easier to find and sort through, and consumers know the truth behind the advertising from friends of theirs who are already customers.

No more lying, no more cheating, no more fees…they said.

Bernal Bucks: Supporting Small Businesses

The other day a friend of mine introduced me to an amazing “secondary” economy concept that was actually put into action out in San Francisco. The residents of Bernal Heights dreamed up Bernal Bucks, and a secondary market designed to help local small businesses was born.

The way Bernal Bucks works is simple. If you’re a Bernal Bucks cardholder, you can earn 5% cash back from any participating Bernal Heights business in the form of Bernal Bucks, which can only be spent at other participating businesses in the neighborhood. Essentially creating a 5% discount on all products in the neighborhood for that neighborhood’s residents. It gives a little bit of relief to consumers, and rewards them for shopping local. Brilliant!

Small businesses rely on local traffic to survive. Many times small businesses look across the street and see competitors, but in the case of Bernal Heights, small businesses have embraced the idea of looking across the street and seeing a strategic partner. It benefits local business as opposed to large brands that people could shop at in the area or online.

Its ideas like this on a larger scale that could really impact our economy, and give a much needed boost to small businesses around the country. Congrats to the creators, I’m your newest fan!

Open Letter to Barack Obama’s Campaign Team

Barack (are we on that level yet?),

Your campaign in 2008 was one of the first in modern politics to take advantage of new technology to increase awareness and attract a new generation of voters. It seems to me that your campaign for re-election will most likely include more of these efforts. And I believe there is one tool that your campaign team should investigate this time around.

I propose that you use Kickstarter, a wildly successful crowdfunding site, to raise money from the general public.

It’s been a longstanding tradition for political campaigns to seek contributions from the general population via door to door campaigning and phone calls. It’s time to take that philosophy to the modern era. Reach a whole new audience and allow those contributions to grow tremendously by reach a younger, involved demographic.

Using Kickstarter’s donation levels, you can offer giveaways and gifts to people for different size donations. Raffle off a dinner with the president for $500, a chance to meet the president for $250, a free White House tour for $100. And use the social media presence that you have already given yourself to push people there online.

The bulk of your donations, I am sure, will still come from large corporations and special interest groups. That’s not a knock on you as much as it is on politics in general. But I’d be willing to bet that the size of contributions that you get from individuals grows because of Kickstarter.

If you’re interested in hiring me to run this part of your campaign for you, feel free to get in touch.


Zach Heller

Incentivize Everything! Innovation

Previous posts in this series:

Innovation. It’s a very popular word to throw around these days. From the President’s speeches to car commercials, everyone is asking for and touting innovation. Maybe it all started because a little blog I used to write.

The definition of innovation is simple, the introduction of something new, or change. In the business sense, it’s a new way of doing something that is better than before. Either it makes the customer experience simpler or more effective, or it makes business processes flow smoother, or it saves money, etc.

At the end of the day, innovation moves us forward. And if you’re running a company, you are looking for the next big idea. Well it’s time to stop looking, and start getting. Go out and do something to make it happen. That’s the entire philosophy to the Incentivize Everything series.

A business’s greatest resources are its employees. From the executives, to the marketers, to the customer service staff, to the factory workers, they are the most important (and possibly the most underutilized) aspects of a successful business. And they have ideas, they have the ideas that you are looking for.

All you need to do is incentivize them to step forward, and empower them to implement.

For every new idea that the company implements, that employee gets ___. Fill in the blank with money, days off, promotions, parties, anything that would drive employees to create change.

Google gives its employees one day each week to work on their own projects. That’s how Gmail was born. Think about it.

Is Package Design our Top Priority?

If I were to argue that the most important aspect of marketing is product design, and that packaging is the sole reason that people make the purchasing decisions that they make, than I would be taking the side of Justin Gignac. Justin is a New York City based artist and entrepreneur, who – back in 2001 – began selling garbage, literally.

To settle a debate between he was having with a friend of his in which he argued that product packaging was the most important factor in the buying process of consumers, Justin started collecting garbage of off the streets of New York City. He packages it in a glass cube, with the words “Garbage of New York City” engraved on the side.

And to the surprise of maybe everyone but Justin, business has been booming ever since. Customers can visit the website and purchase a cube, each one packaged individually, for $50. And though it is really more of an interesting piece of art now than a study in packaging, it is still a fascinating story.

Does it mean that product design and packaging is the most important part of marketing? I don’t know. But it does mean that there is a market out there for your idea, all you have to do is find the right way to sell your story.