Choose The Correct Lens For Your Marketing Plans

Courtesy of photographer Ryan Haddad

Sometimes people get so wrapped up in tactics that they try to make one tactic fit all strategies.  Two articles and a phone call this week reminded me of this. And, also, a project I am currently working on, but more about that later.

The first article is a plea on Search Engine Watch asking Can We Please Stop Hyping Social Media as the Marketing Messiah?  Not only a fitting title for the week, but a reminder that using just one lens to view our goals blinds us to other possible, and Continue reading

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5 Reasons Why You Should Not Use A Service Provider Email Address

Actually there are probably more than 5 reasons to not use service provider email addresses. You know what I am talking about. These are the email addresses we all get “FREE!” from our cable, telephone, or other service provider. The email addresses we might have for personal or small business use.

It’s a BAD IDEA to use those email addresses. Here’s why: Continue reading

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Insanely Great Memories

First off, I never personally met Steve Jobs, but like many people, I did have brushes with his genius.

When I first joined Tektronix in 1985, my desk came with the typical desktop terminal with connections to the Internet through UNIX servers from Gould and VAX. This was standard for technical employees, but not particularly useful for marketing employees outside of sending email. So I ordered a Continue reading

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5 Reasons I Won’t Follow You On Twitter

Yes, I actually look at every follow request. I only have 1000+ followers and get maybe 10 requests a day–no complaints!–so I can take a moment to check them out. Unfortunately, the latest spam trend is killing me, but there is wheat mixed in with the chaff and I discovered a quick way to separate the spam from the real people.

Here’s five ways to make sure I won’t follow you and know you are Twitter spam: Continue reading

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Myths, Marketing, And Money

OK, here’s a story about the importance of using myths, or stories, to market product. Yeah, I know, the idea of Las Vegas as a myth is not exactly a big “eureka!” moment, but it does demonstrate that even in a fantasy town marketers need to be reminded of the importance of the myth in the marketing process.

The New York Times ran this article about using stories to sell sake in their Dining and Wine section, but it really belongs in their Business section.

Las Vegas “whales”, as big gamblers are known in Las Vegas, come to town on Chinese New Year to celebrate and they celebrate in a very big way. Part of the celebration is showing, and enjoying, their success, and that involves having the best of everything, including the best food and drink. In keeping with that theme, Las Vegas restaurants look for something special and expensive to serve, something that is not easily found anywhere else in the world, and at the moment that product is sake.

Sake suppliers and restaurateurs have rediscovered that a great story sells higher priced product, so they now have stories about all their sake. Some stories parallel Hollywood movies:

  • strains of rice that were thought extinct until small batches were discovered and saved with new growing techniques – Jurassic Park
  • the prodigy sake brewer (yes, sake is brewed, like beer) raised from a young age to become a master and carry on a tradition – Kung Fu Panda
  • the ancient sake company, around for over 800 years, that is saved by the new owner – The Santa Clause

Yes, these are ridiculous movie comparisons. But that’s the point, they develop and use the myth to enhance the product. When myth is not enough, there are special names evocative of Asian philosophy and poetry: Ice Dome, Devine Droplets, Ancient Beauty.

There is really nothing new here, the Las Vegas crowd is just applying standard marketing techniques to create and enhance brand image in a commodity market. Rosser Reeves invented the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in the 1940′s to help focus attention on finding the most important product attribute and then build the myth on that attribute. Patent medicine peddlers of the 1800′s crowed about all the ills their miracle would cure and regularly cured someone in the crowd of their infirmities.

We can all take a lesson on this and look at how we market our most mundane products. There is always something special about “our” product and we can find the myth that supports our brand over all other brands.

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Starbucks’ New WiFi Plan: Building Customer Loyalty

Howard Schultz’, CEO Starbucks, announcement yesterday on two changes in Starbucks’ WiFi services demonstrates how even a large corporation must pay attention to customers on a local basis. The announcement took place at the Wired Business Conference “Disrupted By Design”. I’ve written about Starbucks before and how they shift their business model to meet customer expectations.

There is a lesson for small and local businesses in this change at Starbucks.

First, starting July 1, 2010, WiFi service at Starbucks will be free. This move reinforces the neighborhood/community aesthetic at the heart of Starbucks’ marketing. The free model follows a trend already instituted at most airports and many other public spaces. Moving to a for-pay model is a disconnect in the “public plaza” feel Starbucks customers expect, especially after experiencing the free model outside the Starbucks store door.

This is the second step to free WiFi service at Starbucks, a couple of years back they shifted from a pure for-pay model with T-Mobile to ATT with a model featuring¬† two-hours free daily with a registered Starbucks card and small service charge following the first two hours in a day. Granted, that’s not an expensive proposition, but just typing it cramped my fingers and it confuses many less technically comfortable customers. This change is much easier for customers to understand and act on.

Second, a new Starbucks Digital Network will be introduced later this fall. A partnership with Yahoo! and featuring free access to paid sites such as the online Wall Street Journal and other premium sites, the Starbucks Digital Network offers a new reason for Starbucks to be the preferred choice for customers. McDonald’s wired up 11,000 of their restaurants in 2009 and offered free access to customers and McDonald’s coffee business is major competition to Starbucks, so this new Starbucks access model is probably a response to McDonald’s marketing.

Main Street businesses are always looking for a way to build loyal customer relationships and gain an edge over their competition. Small businesses can use this example from Starbucks as a guide for another way to find a way to differentiate themselves from their competition. Of course, a small business will probably not get the national or international news coverage nor will they probably be able to swing a deal with Yahoo! or other major corporations to present exclusive offerings, but small businesses can find equally enticing draws for their local customers.

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Best 2010 Super Bowl Ads

Yep, once again the Super Bowl stuffed us with new ads: Betty White and Abe Vigoda took turns getting stuffed on the playground gridiron: Budweiser vacillated between celebrating their brand’s glorious past with another Clydesdale ad, and it was nicely done, and celebrating the dumbest party scenes imaginable with Bud Lite (full disclosure: Bud Lite is my favorite summer beer for closing out weekend chores in hot weather, the main advantages being that it is cheap and watery); and Danica Patrick helped GoDaddy.com dose us with really low level sexual humor.

But two ads stand out in my mind as something special and, even though the ads are built around huge brands, they teach what small business can do in advertising; David Letterman and Google.

Why Google?

This is simple, and that is the Google ad’s strength. Google told us a story, a very familiar love story, and demonstrated how their product helped this story happen. With only a simple music track and some background sounds (check the baby giggle at the end of the ad), a quiet track compared to the rest of the overblown loud ads, Google told the story through the search field of their own home page. They kept their brand in front of the audience during the entire commercial and showed how their suggested search terms lead the protagonist through an entire love story, first meeting through married-with-kids, set in Paris. The whole ad demonstrated Google’s effort on keeping things simple, staying centered on search, and on being relevant.

Google’s ad was an obvious response to Microsoft’s Bing ads showing how Google’s search can bring up too broad a response. Google showed how that broad response can bring serendipity. What will be important is seeing whether Google will follow this up with more advertising to counter the Bing ads, one ad will not hold back the tide (Apple’s “1984″ ad notwithstanding).

Why David Letterman?

Because each ad for these two large brands worked on a human scale, they told a story, and they were smart.

Personally, I am no fan of David Letterman’s humor. I am more of a Leno-O’Brien-Fallon kind of guy, I like the positive. To me, Letterman just has too much of a nasty side to his humor. But this ad was smart, it used surprise, and it used a pretty negative situation and turned that into a positive. Jay and Oprah appeared with Dave, they even appeared on the same couch.

My wife and I looked at each other in shock and swore that Oprah and Jay were celebrity lookalikes, but that theory was dashed almost immediately after the game when a promo came on confirming that all three people were the real item and not dubbed or faked in any way. Jay and Dave together on the couch, after the internecine war when Dave was passed over to Jay almost 20 years ago, still passing barbed comments with Oprah, the queen of togetherness, sitting frustrated between them.

Who wins with this ad? Everyone. David Letterman wins by having himself linked with Oprah and Jay while he is sitting atop the heap of late night television (although Conan was giving him a good run for his money that last two week before he bowed out of NBC and the Tonight show). Oprah wins because she is winding down her show and preparing for some future that will probably not involve her sitting on an island counting her billions, she is too motivated and engaged to waste her time lounging around (I am waiting to her about her second act). Jay wins because he got great publicity on the competing network that might help pull back some of the audience NBC lost with their business-busting moves.

So what did we learn?

Keep it simple. Tell a story. Demonstrate your product or service. Be smart and respect your audience. Stay true to your brand. When everyone else is yelling, consider whispering.

The Losers? (according to me, anyway)

Dockers and CareerBuilder.com. Really guys? The best you both can come up with is people in their underwear? Seems like both creative teams got lost on the No Pants Day public transit movement. At least the creative teams have not seen a Naked Bike Ride (no link, too NSFW, but you can Google it).

Intel. A sad robot? What about the other sad robot commercial that appeared about an hour later? I forget what the second sad robot advertised, but it was a complete parallel.

Punch Buggy? Gee, when I was a kid the VW Beetle was called a ” slug bug”, and for good reason since it came stuffed with some 40 horses in the trunk. Actually, I liked the ad and I think it communicated the brand pretty well, but where did this punch buggy term come from? Maybe it’s one of those “Hellman’s” versus “Best Foods”, or “soda” versus “pop”, geographical differences.

Oh, yeah, that was a great Super Bowl, too. I actually watched the whole thing through without switching channels this year!

UPDATE (2/8/2009): You can get the full story on the Dave-Oprah-Jay ad from the NY Times.

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