Banana Caramel Mini Muffins

IMG_3083You need to make something for a brunch, a small coffee gathering or just a Saturday morning. If you keep a cake mix in the pantry and a couple of bananas in the kitchen, you can always stir up these tasty tidbits.

Shortcut Spiced Banana Muffins

1 Spiced Cake Mix

2 large eggs

1/3 cup oil

¾ cup water

2 large ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12 mini loaf pans with non stick cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, stir all ingredients together until smooth and well mixed. Put into mini muffin pans and bake 8 minutes OR until toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm or cool. Top with Easy Caramel Frosting! Makes 45-55 small muffins depending on size of pans.

Easy Caramel Frosting

2 Tablespoons Butter

3 Tablespoons Milk

½ cup packed brown sugar

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, and mix in 3 tablespoons milk and brown sugar. Boil vigorously for 1 minute.

1 cup confectioners sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Remove from heat, and beat in 1/2 cup confectioners sugar. Cool slightly, and beat in the vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup confectioners sugar. Add more milk if the mixture is too thick.

Meet Courtney Seiter and Buffer

lM8OzyGsQdfGYzY3iniEdhW4TsMz3VtyX3fp1a2Ve7gCourtney Seiter is a great fount of information on social media and culture.  She is a writer and editor at Buffer, focusing on the intersection of social media and workplace culture. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Fast Company, Lifehacker, Inc. and more. On the side, she’s the co-founder of Girls to the Moon, an amateur DJ and an excellent dog petter.
1. Tell us about Buffer and what makes it different from other social media tools.
Sure thing! Buffer is a tool that helps individuals and companies share easily to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+. Buffer will help you find the best times to post for the most engagement, and then you can fill up your queue so you’re always in touch with your audience. We offer great analytics so you’ll always know how you’re doing and have the insights you need to keep improving. I think our customer support sets us apart; we treat each and every customer with the utmost respect and gratitude, because they’re why we exist!
2. We understand that Buffer has a unique organizational structure, unusual employee benefits and commitment to total transparency.  Tell us a little about it.  
Buffer is a very cool and different type of company; I feel very lucky! We’re a remote team of 60+, with teammates scattered all across the globe. We get together every 6 months or so at a different location–we’ve been to Cape Town, New York, Sydney, Reykjavik and next up in January is Honolulu! We have cool perks like unlimited paid vacation ( plus an extra bonus you only get if you take a vacation!) and free Kindles and all the Kindle books you can read for yourself and your family. We’re also very devoted to transparency as one of our 10 core values, so anyone can learn all about our salaries, our revenue, our team demographics, and what every cent of their subscription to Buffer goes toward. (P.S. We’re hiring!)
3. How are you creating a welcoming environment for teammates and customers? 
Awesome question! Our customers come from all walks of life, all around the world; and we believe our team should reflect that diversity in order to make the best product decisions and create the happiest and most inclusive culture. We have a unique opportunity to add teammates from anywhere in the world! So we’re working toward being very deliberate about growing our culture in a way that celebrates our unique differences. We’re getting news of our open roles to new, different and underrepresented groups and tracking closely how we’re doing with growing the team in a diverse way. We have a lot of important work to do here, and a lot to learn. It’s an exciting project to work on!
 
4. What are you currently working on?  How does your role affect inclusiveness at Buffer?
My role at Buffer is a mix of culture, content and inclusivism, which is such an awesome opportunity. I edit and write for Buffer: Open, our blog that focuses on workplace culture topics. I get the coolest opportunity to share the stories of my teammates, open up about how we work and promote all kinds of unique and innovative workplace culture strategies and movements. It’s also a perfect fit for sharing openly all the experiments we and others are trying to create more diverse and inclusive work environments.
5. What’s new for social media in 2016?  Do you have any crystal ball prognostications for the new year?
I loved seeing the rise of tools like Periscope and Blab this year; it felt like a return to the kind of real-time engagement that made social media so special from the start. In 2016, I predict and hope for more movement in this direction, toward more authentic moments and conversations!
6. What are your passion projects outside of Buffer?  
 
I love working with kids to create a more just future for the next generation. I am a founder of Girls to the Moon, a startup that works to empower young girls to own their confidence and passions. And I’m a tutor and volunteer at Fannie Battle, an amazing program providing resources for underprivileged youth in East Nashville.
7. Bonus:  What didn’t I ask you that I should have?  
Hmm, good one! Well, if you’re in need of any book recommendations, I’ve been reading a book a week throughout 2015 focusing on awesome lady authors. You can find all my selections here!

Our Favorite Business Productivity Tools for 2016

Screening-Trends-and-Predictions-for-2016We all need an array of productivity tools to help us work, share and survive our hectic marketing life.

What’s on our list?  19 Things we can’t live without!

1.  Buffer.  Okay, refer to our story on Buffer.  Buffer allows us to post content to multiple social media platforms in one easy click.  There’s even a handy browser tool that allows you to post while you are reading.  Link all your social profiles and share immediately or schedule posts for later.  Also Buffer has a beautiful social media image creation tool called Pablo.

2.  Socialoomph.com.  Our secret tool.  Socialoomph also allows us to post and schedule content as far in the future as we want, and as often as we want.  When friends say, “I see you on social media all the time; I don’t know how you do it,” I just smile and say thank you!

3.  Latergramme.me. This tool allows you to schedule your Instagram posts in advance.  Once your posts are scheduled, you only need to publish from your phone.

4.  Feedly is a news reading app that delivers news from RSS feeds.  I am still missing Google Reader but this is a good way to harness quick access to articles.

5.  WordPress is the blog platform I use for both LipstickEconomy.com and our website.  We have used WordPress for six years and often use it as the platform for websites we are building.  You can’t beat its open source platform and easy-to-use content management system.

6.  Google Analytics.  There are great new demographic and behavioral features in reporting now.

7.  FreeConferenceCall.com.  Yep, it’s free.  Conference calls for up to 100 people for six hours, although who would want to be on a call with that many people.  You can also record calls with MP3 playback.  Recording is helpful when you do interviews or don’t want to take notes.  We also use UberConference which has similar features and document sharing, also free.

8.  DropBox  and HighTail.  Dropbox is used for storing and sharing files and photos with clients and partners.  HighTail is great for storing and sharing large files easily.  We use HighTail for transferring large graphic files quickly and easily.

9.  Google Drive.  I use Google Drive for several organizations and clients where we need to easily share documents and files.  And you know, it’s free and awesome.

10.  Timetrade.com or ScheduleOnce are great tools for setting appointments online.  Excellent tools when you are scheduling interviews for groups of people.

11.  Grammarly or Hemingway.  Great tools for checking your grammar, your verbosity and your penchant for run-on sentences.

12.  Basecamp.  We use Basecamp for managing large projects with our clients.  Basecamp is considered the most popular project management software.

13. Emma and MailChimp for Email.  Why two?  Well, they offer different things for different clients.  Emma is changing constantly with great new features.  One of the things they offer is beautiful templates and custom creative.  Emma’s reporting is easy-to-read and they work well with franchise organizations.  Besides, they are a Nashville company!  Mailchimp is free for lists up to 2,000, good reporting, easy-to-build templates and cute illustrations of chimps.

14.  Canva and Pablo 2.0.  Both build amazing graphics for social media.  We love and use them both.  Powtoon is also a great resource for quick little videos with  templates ready for customization.

15.  SurveyMonkey.  Research is important for all businesses.  SurveyMonkey is good for informal research,  formal research and even collecting contact information.

16.  LinkedIn is both social media and a contact resource.  Download your connections to start your contact or newsletter list.

17.  Evernote.  Free note-taking app that is perfect for someone who saves everything.

18.  My iPhone.  My phone, my camera, my lifeline.  What else can I say?  Also a portable charger for traveling.

19.  Hubspot, Salesforce or Contactually.  CRMs for the real world based on the size of your business and pocketbook.

 

Banana Pudding with Peanut Butter Whipped Cream Is a Great Idea

IMG_2362Banana Pudding with  Peanut Butter Whipped Cream!  I know, it’s January and we are supposed to be talking about salads and diets.  But I just read an amazing post from Anne Lamott about the fallacy of diets, and I just got The Southerner’s Cookbook for Christmas. And Banana Pudding does have a marketing backstory with Nabisco Nilla Wafers. Enjoy this Elvis-inspired version fit for the King.

Banana Pudding

4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
4 large ripe bananas, peeled and sliced in rounds (I used 8 bananas!)
4 large egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whole milk (I used evaporated milk.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla wafers
 
Peanut Butter Topping
 
2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons cold heavy cream
¼ cup creamy peanut butter (I used 1/2 cup peanut butter.)
3 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 cup crushed vanilla wafers
 

Pudding Preparation

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sliced bananas, tossing to coat, and salute for 3 to 5 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the bananas are soft and lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, ¼ cup of the sugar, the cornstarch, and salt until smooth and pale in color.  In a large saucepan, come the half-and-half, milk, and remaining ½ cup sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed and lightly steaming.  Temper the egg yolk mixture: slowly whisk ½ cup of the hot half-and-half mixture into the yolk mixture.  Return the mixture to the saucepan with the half-and-half mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until bubbles begin to form and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat; add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the vanilla and stir until the butter is melted.

Arrange a single layer of vanilla wafers in the bottom of a 2-quart dish or trifle bowl.  Top with half of the sautéed bananas.  Spoon half of the pudding on top of the bananas; layer again with vanilla wafers, bananas, and the remaining pudding.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Peanut Butter Topping

Put the 2 tablespoons cream and the peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until creamy and thinned, about 30 seconds.  Let cool completely, then transfer to a large bowl and add the remaining 2 cups cream and confectioners’ sugar.  With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

To serve, line the rim of the serving dish with more vanilla wafers, dollop the topping over the pudding, and sprinkle with crushed vanilla wafers.

Recipes excerpted from “The Southerner’s Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories” by David DiBenedetto and the Editors of Garden & Gun (Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards.

 

 

Six Lists that Make You More Productive

moms-to-do-list-no-do-listHere is some great advice from Fast Company on making those all-important To Do Lists.

Your brain is for thinking, not for storing a long list of random things you need to do.

“When you’re juggling a lot of tasks, things will fall through the cracks, and lists are amazing for keeping yourself on target and getting things done,” says Paula Rizzo, author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to Be More Productive, Highly Successful, and Less Stressed.

As senior health producer at Fox News, Rizzo was used to creating checklists of questions and shots to get. When she started to look for an apartment in New York, she realized how important lists can be in all situations—but only if they’re used correctly.

“A lot of people want to be list makers, but they aren’t sure how to create lists that actually help,” she says. “The key is making the right lists and being strategic in how they’re used.”

Here are six lists that Rizzo says are helpful to business leaders, and how you can use them to be more productive:

1. A SPECIFIC AND TARGETED DAILY TO-DO LIST
While a to-do list seems like a no-brainer, Rizzo says too many people fail to set theirs up for success: “A daily to-do list needs to be specific and targeted,” she says. “You should only put things on a to-do list that you have the time and resources to achieve. And big goals and projects should be broken down into actionable tasks.”

The first step is to pay attention to timing: Write your list at the end of the day before you leave your desk. “Look ahead to following day and determine everything that needs to happen,” she says. “Identify phone calls to make, emails to send, and appointments you have. When you come to work in the morning, you’ll have a road map and can hit the ground running.”

When tackling the tasks on your to-do list, it helps to match the action with your productivity levels, says Rizzo. She takes care of tasks that require more focus, such as writing, at the beginning of the day when she’s fresh. Smaller things, like phone calls or emails, are put at the bottom of the list, to be completed after lunch when her mind is more fatigued. When distractions pop up during the day that could throw you off of your game, refer to your to-do list, and reset your intention for day.

If something doesn’t get done, reevaluate the task at the end of the day. “Ask yourself, ‘Did that belong on the list for today? Do I have the appropriate time and resources? Or can I give the task somebody else?’” Rizzo says. “Leaving items undone can feel like you failed, but don’t be too hard on yourself. If it’s still important, put the task on tomorrow’s list.”

2. AN OUTSOURCE LIST
Successful leaders and entrepreneurs often complete tasks they could have delegated because it will just take a minute, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, says Rizzo.

“Menial tasks, such as uploading a blog post to WordPress or making travel arrangements, aren’t always the best use of your time and talent,” she says. “Look at everything on your to-do list and ask yourself, ‘Am I the only person who can do this?’”

LOOK AT EVERYTHING ON YOUR TO-DO LIST AND ASK YOURSELF, “AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN DO THIS?”
Anything that can be given to someone else should be put on an outsource list. While outsourcing takes extra time upfront to train someone else on the task, it saves you time later, which can be used to focus on the things you do have to do. The outsource list will become someone else’s to-do list.

3.  A LONG TERM GOALS LIST

Writing a list of long-term goals and dreams can help you achieve more, says Rizzo. “Even if you think it’s too big of a dream but it’s something you want, write it down anyway,” she says. “When you write something down, studies say you’ll be 33% more likely to do it because it sets an intention and puts a goal into action.  Create a long-term goals list for yourself and your company. Then create a reminder to review and re-evaluate it periodically.

“I set a recurring meeting on the calendar in my phone and review my list,” says Rizzo. “I cross off the things that have happened, add new goals, or delete things I no longer want to do. It’s a good exercise for achieving the things you want.”

4.  A PROS AND CONS LIST

When you’re making an important decision, such as forming a partnership or entering a new business venture, create a list of pros and cons. “This list makes you dig down deep,” says Rizzo. “And just because there are more pros than cons, it doesn’t mean your decision should be a definite yes.”

The best way to use this list is to write it down and leave it alone. “Come back to it the next day when your perspective is fresh,” says Rizzo. “It can also help to share your list with someone else or ask a friend or partner to help brainstorm more pros and cons. This list gives you the clarity you need to make good decisions.”

5. A PROJECT LIST
When you are working on a project with others, create project lists that detail tasks and assign responsibilities.

“This helps you avoid micromanaging,” says Rizzo, who suggests using online project management software, such as Asana or Basecamp. Projects can be broken down into actionable tasks and assigned to team members. Everyone can view everyone else’s progress, as everyone has access to all team members’ to-do lists.

“This eliminates the need for numerous emails that can become confusing, and everything about a project is contained in one location,” says Rizzo.

6. A TALKING-POINTS LIST
If you have an upcoming meeting or important phone call, create a list of things you want to discuss, so you don’t risk forgetting something. Keep this list handy on your desk, so when things pop in your mind you can jot them down.

“A talking points list makes meetings more efficient, because you can be sure to address everything you need at once,” says Rizzo.

 

 

Bite-sized Pecan Pie Bars

Pecan-Pie-Bars-1Mini desserts are so great.  They allow our guests to indulge and feel guilt-free.  You can try a little pecan bar, a little cheese cake and a little churro bite.

At our house, we love pecan pie and these bars are a little bit of pecan heaven.  The secret ingredient is the Heath Bar bits!

JAMIE’S PECAN LITTLE BITS

SHORTBREAD CRUST

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup butter or margarine, cut into pieces
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

PECAN FILLING

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups Karo® Light OR Dark Corn Syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons butter OR margarine, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 bag Heath Bar bits

DIRECTIONS

CRUST

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix flour, butter, powdered sugar and salt with an electric mixer until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Line your pan with foil. Press firmly and evenly into a greased 15 x 10-inch rimmed pan. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown.
FILLING

1
For FILLING: Beat eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in pecans and Heath Bar Bits.
2
Pour over hot crust; spread evenly.
3
Bake 25 minutes at 350°F until filling is firm around the edges and slightly firm in center. Cool completely on wire rack before serving

Fourth of July Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies

IMG_1344Sprinkles make everything more fun. We tried out these fantastic Confetti Cookies when some friends celebrated their new U.S. Citizenship.

Since sprinkles come in all kinds of colors, we can have them for any holiday.  For the Fourth, they will go perfectly with our homemade ice cream.   Our ice cream will be Milky Way.

 

 

 

 

Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sprinkles (I prefer jimmies over nonpareils)

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low, and slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. The dough will be thick (you may have to finish incorporating the mixture with a spatula). Fold in 1/4 cup of the sprinkles.
  • Put the remaining 1/4 cup sprinkles in a bowl. Scoop up 2 tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball. Dip the ball into the bowl of sprinkles to cover lightly. Put the ball on a plate. Repeat with the remaining sprinkles and dough, and chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Put racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Transfer the chilled dough balls to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space in between each ball.
  • Bake until the cookies have spread and are just beginning to brown around the edges, but are mostly pale and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Milky Way Ice Cream

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons vanilla

3 cups milk

3 cups whipping cream

6 Milky Way regular size candy bars

Melt candy and set aside to cool. (Mix one cup of the milk with the candy and melt in the microwave.) Beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until thickened. Add milk, cream and vanilla; mix thoroughly. Fold in melted candy bars. Churn and freeze.

Gigi Butler Stirs Up A Recipe for Cupcake Success

Gigi Butler 2014Gigi Butler, founder and Chief Brand Officer of Gigi’s Cupcakes, turned family recipes into the largest cupcake franchise company in the nation, with more than 100 stores.  This year Gigi was given the opportunity to appear on CBS’ “Undercover Boss” where millions of people were exposed to the successful cupcake chain.  Gigi talked to us about the Undercover Boss experience, challenges to growing the business, and what it means to be the face of a brand. And of course we had a cupcake, or two.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be in business for yourself?  

Yes!  I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs.  My dad was an entrepreneur and my aunts and great aunts owned and operated bakeries.  I started a cleaning business at the age of 15 so that I could have flexibility.   When I moved to Nashville in 1994, to pursue a country music career, I operated my small cleaning business during the day and would sing at the clubs downtown at night.   I’ve always worked for myself and I don’t know any other way.

Q:  What was the impetus to begin a cupcake business?  

My entire family loved to cook and bake, so I grew up around it.  My Aunt Bennie owned a bakery and catering business and I would spend summers with her. I’d help her bake, cater events, and read her cake decorating books. I loved to bake and had a passion for it at an early age, but my dream was to be a country singer.

In my early thirties, I realized that my music career was unlikely to take off so I decided to focus entirely on my cleaning business.  A few years went by and then my brother called me while I was cleaning a home and told me that he had waited in line at a cupcake bakery in New York for hours. He said, “Your cupcakes are better than these. You should open up a bakery.” I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and decided to go for it.

I opened my first cupcake shop in February 2008 with only $33 left in my bank account. Now, seven years later and against the odds, Gigi’s Cupcakes has grown to be the largest cupcake franchise company in the nation. We just opened our first international location in early 2015 in South Korea and hope to continue to expand in other countries.

I think back fondly on those summer afternoons with Aunt Bennie, who is now part of the Gigi’s team, and consults on product development in the kitchen with me. We have over 300 recipes at Gigi’s Cupcakes and many of them have a rich personal family history originating from my grandmother, great aunts, my mother and other relatives, many of whom are bakers.

Q:  How many cupcakes do you sell daily? 

The average store sells about 500 cupcakes a day.  Here are some other fun facts that you might be interested in.  In 2014, we estimate that all of our stores used:

1.8 Million Pounds of Powdered Sugar

965,000 Pounds of Butter

600,000 Pounds of Flour

63,000 Pints of Vanilla

67,000 Pounds of Cocoa

33,000 Pounds of Cream Cheese

 Q:  Your Undercover Boss episode is ran again this month on CBS.    How did you make the decision to participate in Undercover Boss?

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I just couldn’t turn it down.  We were one of the few small companies that they have ever highlighted.  I had to do it and I’m so glad I did.

Q:  What was the most surprising thing you learned from your Undercover Boss experience?

Filming Undercover Boss was an amazing experience that I will always be grateful for.  Two things that surprised me during this experience were:  1) I was surprised by how many passionate and wonderful people work for us.  It’s not just a job to them, they truly care about the business and the brand.  2)  I was also surprised that we were consistently inconsistent.  We didn’t have the exact same procedures from one store to the next.  I knew we needed to address that immediately.

Q:  Did the experience benefit your business?

Yes, the experience greatly benefited us!   We learned a lot during my journey and we haven’t been the same since.

Q:  What has been the biggest marketing challenge in growing your business?

Staying relevant and continuing to think outside the box.  We don’t just do cupcakes, we have a lot of products. While we’re best known for our signature swirl – icing piled high on top of a freshly baked cupcake, we strive to have a diversified product line that not only includes 300 cupcake flavors, but also stuffed cookies, bread loaves, muffins, cakes, cheesecakes, pies and specialty coffee.

Q:  What have you learned from your role as the face of the brand?  

It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve truly had to make a transition from behind-the-scenes to being the public face of the company.  Sure, it’s always been Gigi’s, but as we’ve grown, my role as the spokesperson for the brand has also grown.   It doesn’t allow me as much time working diligently behind the scenes as I’m accustomed to, so I’ve had to adjust and find appropriate balance.  We have a great team of people working for us, and I have learned to let go (at least I’m working on that) and allow our seasoned veterans to do what they do best.   I’ve also learned that people like knowing that there is authenticity to our brand and that there is actually a real person named Gigi that started the company.

 Q:  Where do the new cupcake ideas come from? 

I used to wake up in the middle of the night with song ideas and lyrics.  Now I wake up thinking about new cupcake flavors.  I still use my creative spirit, just in a different way.  Our new summer menu includes Bubble Gum and Cotton Candy because we wanted to focus on summer fun flavors.  I remember going to the state fair as a kid and eating cotton candy.  It was one of my favorite things.   We wanted these flavors to bring back those childhood memories as soon as you taste them.   It’s like tasting a memory.

 Q:  What do you want your daughter to learn from your experience as a female business owner?

I want to leave a legacy of love for my daughter.  I want her to know the power of hard work.  I also want her to know that there is strength and a sense of community when you give back to people.  That’s what’s most important.

Liz Denning is Shaking Up the World of Video Content

Liz serious twoAs co-owner of Gamma BlastLiz Denning is producing consumer-centric videos that live in a place between advertising and programming. It allows her firm to produce web series like the Nashville Predators “Beneath the Ice” that brings 50,000-75,000 people to the Predator’s website to get to know their players better.  She is helping brands like HGTV and the Food Network understand how to appeal to consumers passions in a totally authentic and engaging way.  We asked Liz to tell us a little about her views on video.

1.  How are advertisers using video content to enhance their brand and  what results they are seeing?

Smart brands have pivoted to understand that the customer is now in the driver’s seat when it comes to whether to consume media. These companies are creating media that starts with the interests and passions of the consumer and then figures out how the company’s message can fit into the consumer’s world in an authentic way. Red Bull, GE and, of course, Lego are masters of authentic, branded content.

We produce regular content for HGTV and Food Network, who are keeping viewers interested when programming ends because it focuses on people’s interests, not a sales message. Another example is our web series with the Nashville Predators, “Beneath the Ice”. It includes sponsor integration and is bringing 50,000-75,000 people to the Preds’ site for every episode.

 2.  You often say that you are in the storytelling business.  How do you help brands find their story?

We use time-tested storytelling techniques to keep people interested because people are more distracted than ever. To help companies find their story, we ask them a lot of questions about their brand and their audience in our creative briefing process and, if needed, conduct informal focus groups. For brands who need a lot of help and additional research, we partner with smart folks like you, Jamie!

3.  Give us an idea of how video content is growing online and why it should be part of a brand’s marketing.

With YouTube ranking as the second largest search engine and video viewership making up one-third of online activity (according to Digital Sherpa), these are just two of the many indicators to show online video has exploded. Brands can’t ignore people’s interest in video when it comes to marketing.

4.  How does video impact social media today?

Every brand wants to be shared. The social media content that is most often shared makes people laugh, smile, feel joy or gives a sense of awe (according to Buzzsumo). Video’s combination of sight and sound taps into these emotions like nothing else.

5.  What are some of the important things brands need to keep in mind about video production?

  • It’s about the viewer.
  • Only the new and different ideas break through.
  • There are ways to create consistent video content for your brand that is high quality and reasonably priced.

6.  Where do you go for new ideas and learning?

Digiday

NAMA (Nashville American Marketing Association)

Content Marketing Institute

Smart folks in and out of town

8.  What are your passions outside of work?

Besides my husband and two boys, one of my big causes is arts education for kids. Being a Board Member of the Nashville Children’s Theatre, I’m continually amazed at the production quality and education they’re able to provide, on a shoestring budget, for children at all socio-economic levels.

Liz Denning is Co-Owner and Marketing Director for Gamma Blast, a firm that specializes in creating entertaining and compelling branded entertainment, programming, commercials and web and social content. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Gamma Blast serves national clients from mid-size to Fortune 100 companies such as Nissan, The Grand Ole Opry, the Nashville Predators NHL hockey team and HGTV.