Are there Dumb Questions or Correct Questions?

This is an answer to Scott Sakamoto on his blog post on Portland Westside Guy about “dumb questions”, titled High Tech: Asking the Correct Questions.

Hey, all questions gladly accepted. Answers? That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

Everyone is ignorant until they are experienced. Life is built on experiences and so is expertise. All animals can learn; the Skinner box, and both anecdotal stories as well as rigorous field research bear this out. Humans are the only animals that attend scheduled classes and follow a pedagogy to prepare them for positive societal participation.

Unfortunately, there has been a long period in the U.S. where knowledge, particularly of the science sort, has been uncool, or “too hard to understand.” This fear of science has expanded to encompass the dreaded fear of “high tech.” High tech is nothing more than science applied.

If you can understand:

  • how an alarm clock works
  • how electricity flows
  • how plumbing works

…then you can understand “high tech.” There is nothing mysical or magical about the subject….although some of what it accomplishes can truly be described as magical.

I am happy to answer questions and I can refer to many people who are real experts in different subjects instead of me filling my curiousity.

BUT, questioners need to bring a curiosity and be willing to listen without quitting just because “it’s too hard.”

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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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