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My Blackberry, Stat!!!

I come from a family of doctors. My father was a doctor, my brother is a doctor, and my brother-in-law is a doctor. I know, I know. What happened to me, you might ask? Well, anyone can learn how to save lives; it’s all in the medical textbooks. But to learn how to market products, well that is both an art and a science. SNAP!!! (me being hip)

But the two worlds are converging. While I doubt we will hear stories about marketing people saving lives, marketers are saving hospitals. As the world of medicine continues to be more competitive, hospitals are engaging in a number of marketing initiatives to differentiate themselves from their competition.

Images While I’m all for marketing, and I’m a huge believer in social media, I did read a somewhat troubling article in the NY Times on May 24. It seems that many hospitals are utilizing social media techniques to raise the awareness of their brand in the eyes of prospective patients. One of the examples discusses how hospitals are bringing video equipment into the operating room, and uploading videos of brain surgeries, heart surgeries, etc. for the world to view.

Okay, I guess I can live with that (pun intended), as long as the patient has provided permission. But further in the article, examples are provided illustrating how surgeons are incorporating Twitter to offer play-by-play of their surgical progress.

I’m not sure I would want this if I’m a patient. The fact is, as an avid Twitterer, sometimes I personally find it hard to figure out how to condense my tweets down to 140 characters. I really have to concentrate on what words and symbols I will use to properly convey my message due to the character limitations. Do we really want surgeons concentrating on condensing their message, instead of focusing on the surgery itself? I can hear the conversation now.

Nurse: Doctor, it looks like we have a bleeder in the right ventricle, and a thrombosis is forming in the patient’s lower left leg.

Doctor: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Which is it that is the real problem? The bleeding or the thrombosis? I only have 140 characters.

Nurse: Doctor, look at the amount of blood that is pumping into the chest cavity. Aren’t you concerned?

Doctor: “Gr8t amount of blood in patient cavity. U can’t believe the mess. Going in” Okay, sorry, had to tweet that before I fixed it. Suture!

(4 hours later) (after final closing of the incision)

Nurse: Doctor, you did an unbelievable job, even though you were tweeting while performing surgery. You should be proud of yourself. Aren’t you going to tweet about how you saved the patient?

Doctor: Ummm, have you seen my Blackberry? I had placed it on the patient’s stomach when we started to close.

Nope, I don’t think Tweeting in the O.R. is the right marketing message to send to prospective patients looking for great health care.

Stay well!

All We Need is Love

Today we discuss love.

First let me share a sad love story. While this may be hard to believe, when I was a freshman in college, I was a bit, ummm, questionable when it came to being cool. I was funny, had a “great personality”, but was far from ever being called a stud. But I thought I had enough qualities that I would make a great boyfriend.

Love at Lisbon Airport I was dating a girl over whom I was definitely “ga-ga”. After having dated for a few months, one Friday night, I took her to a campus showing of the Redford – Streisand film, “The Way We Were”. Having seen the film before, I thought this was to be a perfect situation for me. I’d have my arm around her, the movie would make her cry, and we’d look into one another’s eyes, and it would result in “make-out city”! How could the plan not work?

Well, we watched the film, she did cry, but she didn’t end up in my arms. Instead, as the movie ended, she told me that she was tired, and would like to go back to her dorm room. A few minutes later, after a quick peck on the cheek, I left her so she could get some rest, and I went off to the bars to find some friends.

You’re on the edge of your seat, aren’t you? 90 minutes later, I’m sitting in a bar, having a beer, and in comes my “girlfriend” with another guy. She wasn’t tired, she had another date! I was mortified, she was embarrassed, and the other guy was simply a jerk!

When I confronted her the next day, and asked her why, she simply offered this up as an explanation; “Joel, I like you a lot, but I don’t love you. I think you’re great, but I just don’t see ever loving you.”

Crushing! And you can see I have gotten over it (so what if I remember it like it was yesterday.)

Why share this sad, gut-wrenching story? Simple! It is to reemphasize why it is so important to get people to love your brand, not just “like” your brand a lot. Whether you are selling a product, a service, or simply selling yourself, it is not enough to have people like what it is you are marketing. To create brand evangelists, to develop brand ambassadors, the consumer has to fall deeply in love with your brand, and they need to be willing to commit to having the brand in their life.

This concept of building brands that people love is covered greatly in the book, Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts. Those of you who have heard me speak know that I love this book, and quote it often. I highly recommend that you read it a few times to get the most from it. But the concept is simple; as Roberts so eloquently states, Trademarks are owned by the companies, Lovemarks are owned by the consumers. If people love your brand, they will take ownership in the brand itself, and ultimately the success of the brand.

It is all about LOVE! Don’t simply try and get people to like the brand, always work towards getting them to LOVE your brand. You don’t want them saying they are tired, and then searching for a different brand, as my Friday night college date did.

Okay, I know that you want to know the outcome of the love story. Well, she ended up marrying the guy from that night, but sadly it didn’t work out for them. I, on the other hand got lucky, married a wonderful person named Heidi, who loves brand Joel, and it will be 19 years of brand loyalty this September (even though the brand needs some “new and improved” features).

I’m a real romantic, aren’t I?

When you get the chance, do a brand love-audit. Whatever your brand, whether it is a product, corporate brand, or simply yourself, sit down and take some time to evaluate why people should love your brand, and if they don’t, what needs to change about the brand to get people to emote love.

Always ask yourself this question; “if I were to see my brand for the first time, would I fall in love?” 

United Airlines, Please Just be Nice to Me

When was the last time that you really took a hard look at how you treat your best customers? In these challenging times, the last thing you want to do is lose clients or customers who have been loyal to you over an extended period of time, simply because you didn't have a "best customer strategy" in place.

With this in mind, United Airlines never ceases to amaze me. I used to think that they just didn't get it when it came to rewarding their best customers. Now I have come to the conclusion that they do get it, but they simply don't care.

I could actually host an entire blog on all of the I things that I believe United does wrong when it comes to customer service. In my opinion, they have become one of the most consumer-unfriendly major global airlines, and rather than trying to improve the situation, they look for additional opportunities to take the service levels down a notch.

But today I am only speaking about one thing that annoys the heck out of me, and I have to admit, this is a really personal annoyance.

Brief background. I have flown United for years, and I'm a Million Mile Flyer. That means that I have flown over one million actual paid-for miles with the airline during my lifetime. (It is now up to 1,246,433 to be exact). Sad, huh? Think of all of the time I have spent sitting in a steel tube at 35,000 feet, being chided to put my seat in an upright position, fasten my seatbelt, put my tray table up, turn off my laptop, turn off my iPod, put my carry-on further under the seat in front of me, raise my window-shade, and read the "in case of an emergency" card.

As a Million Mile Flyer, one of the "perks" is that I have been given lifetime Executive Premier status, even though I continue to qualify every year. The lifetime status will come in handy when I no longer fly as much. When you hear the gate agent mention Gold members, that is the Executive Premier group.

I'm not sharing any of this to brag. But I needed to tell you this to make a point.

CIMG5896 United is a founding member of the Star Alliance group of airlines. In a recent Star Alliance ad which I tore out of a United in-flight magazine, they state that as a Star Alliance Gold member (that's me), you have access to 805 airport lounges Alliance-wide. Please don't think I'm a snob. I know that I can sit in a gate area just like everyone else. But the lounges are nice, and when you fly a lot, they are a nice place to relax (I mean, work) as you wait for the next departure.

Let me tell you how nice it is to have this perk. Wherever I am in the world, if I am holding a ticket on a Star-Alliance member airline, I can relax in the airport lounge, or get a bit of work done. (Below is a photo of me in Lisbon in TAP's high-tech lounge on my current trip). All of this because I am a United Airlines Gold member.

IMG_0649

But in the United States, my home country, if I am holding a ticket on their airline, United won't let me into their lounge. Never! Not unless I paid a Red Carpet Club membership fee of $350 per year, which I refuse to do. If I was a Gold Member of any of the other 20 member airlines, United would let me into the club at no charge. But as a United customer, one of their "best" customers according to the mailings that they send to me, I can only use the other member lounges around the world, or non-domestic United lounges.

I know, I'm sounding like a status snob, which I don't mean to do. But is United out of their mind? Why would they treat their own elite customers worse than they treat other member airlines' best customers? It simply doesn't make sense. It is such a simple rule change, but they just don't care.

So I ask you this question. In your business, do you have some crazy rules in place (restocking fees, must return products within 14-days refund policy, no return if the package is opened, etc.) that will simply anger your best customers? What's the point? Shouldn't we treat our best customers the same way we would treat our friends?

As for United, they have absolutely no interest in getting better. But like a heroin addict who can't kick the addiction of their frequent flyer program, I keep flying the airline. So I guess I deserve to suffer.

Vacation From Being Social

There seems to be an interesting phenomenon going on with respect to social media and always being connected, and I'm wondering as to how widespread it is becoming.

Today I am in Amsterdam, where I am preparing for meetings with our European clients, strategic partners, as well as some strategic companies visiting from China. We are all converging on Amsterdam in conjunction with the PLMA meeting that is held annually. Quite a few of our clients are in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) business (FMCG in Europe), so this meeting always proves to be an efficient time and place to meet with our global partners.

But that has nothing to do with the phenomenon of which I was speaking.

CIMG5890 I had dinner this evening in a small, outdoor Italian ristorante, and because today was a travel day for me, I like to decompress by having some quiet time. Therefore, my plans were to have dinner on my own.(By the way, the photo makes me look more pale than I actually am. I actually have a nice fluorescent bulb glow in real life).  But this is Europe, and I was seated at a table 12 inches next to another table, sharing the airspace with Lynn, a young girl from Calgary traveling throughout Europe on a 5-week excursion. This was Lynn's first trip to Europe, and she was traveling on her own, only meeting friends at the very end of the trip.

Lynn works in the telecom industry in Canada, and she shared that her role was that of a business analyst. I would guess that Lynn is in her late 20's (I was being uncharacteristically gentlemanly and did not press for details), has a bit of business experience under her belt, but still has a bit of exploration wanderlust in her system. We had a nice conversation about all of the places she had visited, and what the highlights were from her trip to date.

But here is the phenomenon...

When I asked her if she was blogging about her trip, she emphatically said NO!, and that in fact, part of what she wanted from this vacation was a vacation from being connected. She further shared with me that she was not uploading any pictures to Facebook while on the trip, and in fact did not want to update her status all that much. But her friends said that she had to keep them updated, so she has decided to utilize Google maps to pinpoint where she is, and then uploads that as her status update. No other comment, no other post, just a map with a dropped pin. She refuses to Twitter, and told me that she is thankful that her Blackberry is not working in Europe.

She concluded her explanation by saying that she simply needed a vacation from being so connected to friends and family.

Which leads me to pose these questions. Aren't we supposed to be having fun being connected? Has staying up to date on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. become all too much like work? Do more of us need a "vacation from being social"? Are we all becoming socially exhausted? 

Where is all of this connectivity leading us to? I don't have the answers today, just the questions.

A 60-yr. old Brand; Still Going Strong!

If you market, they will come...

I am a big fan of innovation and evolution of brands. I consult regularly as to why brands have to innovate, creating new products and services, simply to stay relevant.

But sometimes, I am wrong. Sometimes an old brand stays relevant simply due to great and consistent marketing, with innovation taking a back seat. In essence, through working a strong brand awareness strategy, the brand prospers.

CIMG5870 I had the opportunity to experience one of those "old" brands this past Sunday. My wife and I attended the Don Rickles performance at The Venue in Hammond, IN. (Yes, we drove across state lines simply to see Mr. Rickles).

Here are some quick stats about this politically-incorrect performer, who people either love or despise.

  • He is 83 years old, and has been performing for 60 years.
  • He won an Emmy last year for his HBO special at the age of 82. 
  • He recently had his 2nd book published by Simon & Schuster.
  • He was just awarded the Legend Award by TV Land.
  • He currently is working on adding his voice to the third installment of Toy Story as Mr. Potato Head.
Keep in mind that this man is 83 years old, and has had the Don Rickles brand for going strong for 60 consecutive years. And on Sunday, at a casino theater that holds 2500 people, he sold out at an average price of $60 per ticket. Allow me to do the math; that is $150,000 of gross revenue for 90 minutes work, and he intimated that he was taking home $100,000 as his paycheck for the evening. At age 83. Amazing!

IMG_0600 This man, through his integrated marketing program, consisting of his HBO special, his book, his voice, his performances, his PR, his website, his MySpace site, and his tireless hard work, continues to market his brand, and the result is huge revenues, and sell-out crowds.

How hard are you working your brand?

Success is in the Eyes of the Beholder

I haven't had a good angry rant in awhile. I thought it might be a great way to end the week.

052107_Macys-1 The other day, Macy's Inc. reported a net loss of $88 million for its first quarter. At the same time, the retailer reported that its total sales in the same quarter were down 9.5%, from $5.75 billion to $5.2 billion. In announcing these results, Terry J. Lundgren, the chairman and CEO of Macy's Inc. said. "We continue to successfully navigate this very difficult economic environment."

Is that so? Let me see if I understand this.

Macy's loses $88 million dollars over a 13 week period. (For those of you keeping score, that is a loss of $967,032.00 every single day, seven days a week, for 13 weeks.) The CEO of the company actually states that they consider this to be "successfully navigating" the company?

That is like saying the Titanic was a great relaxing voyage.

That is like saying the Hindenburg had a successful trip to the States.

That is like saying New Orleans handled the rain pretty well during Hurricane Katrina.

That is like saying the Chicago Fire was a slight inconvenience due to the excessive heat.

Are they out of their freaking minds???

Macy's is a disaster. After everyone in Chicago told them not to mess with the Marshall Field & Co. name by changing it to Macy's, Lundgren arrogantly proclaimed that the name did not mean as much as Macy's name, and he wanted to create a national department store chain that would prove to be a retail powerhouse, coast to coast. He was wrong. He has created nothing more than a mess. People who were regular Marshall Field customers refuse to set foot in a Macy's. This is true in other part's of the country as well.

Being wrong is okay, if one is willing to admit it. Mistakes happen.

But to report these kind of failures, quarter after quarter, year after year, and then issue a statement that the company is successfully navigating the economic times, he must think that everyone is simply dumber than he is. Which is another sign of his corporate arrogance.

So Mr. Lundgren, if you are reading this (hey, that would be cool, huh?), do me a favor. When the Macy's Board of Directors finally realizes that they could do better with anyone else at the helm other than you, and they ask you to resign, please do not contact any of our client companies for a job. If you think losing $88 million in a quarter is "successfully navigating the economic times", we don't need your type of success. We can do fine on our own, thank you very much.

By the way, none of our clients lost $88 million in the 1st quarter, so I guess that means that they are a bit smarter than you when it comes to navigation. Let me know if you wish to speak to them to better understand how to right your sinking ship.

Ha! That will teach Macy's to screw with our beloved Marshall Field's brand, the store where I spent every holiday season looking at the decorated windows. I bet this blog will really cause the Macy's board to rethink their strategy.

Sometimes I like to rant myself to a delusional state.

We Can Change The World!

I seldom share my personal problems via my blog. I simply don't think people need to hear about my problems, when everyone has problems of their own.

And the fact is, I'm pretty fortunate. I live a pretty great life. While not wealthy, as my parents generation used to say, "I'm comfortable". I have a great job. I live in a nice house on a tree-lined street, I have 6 great kids and a wife Carol, and a housekeeper who keeps the house in perfect... oh, wait, that's the Brady Bunch, isn't it? We need to discuss reality.

I do have a nice house, and a great wife. I am comfortable. And I love my work.

Images But the fact is, this has been a tough week! I am an entrepreneur, and have been my entire life. (I did spend 2 years working for a publicly-traded company, but both the company and I have agreed to wipe that experience out of our shared memories). Not only am I an entrepreneur, but in our consulting practice, a large percentage of our clients are entrepreneurs as well. When they have difficulty, we share in those difficulties since we are so closely aligned.

Back to the tough week. Internally, I have been dealing with normal issues that exist in any business.  "Issues" with our bank, as they are worried about government oversight. There are internal challenges as we plan the future growth of our consulting group, and who will have what responsibility. There are time management challenges in trying to figure out how we get all of the work completed on a timely basis. And then I have the "pressure" of trying to always stay up on my blog posting, Twitter posting, Facebook messages, Linked-In requests, and responding to all my emails. Normal stuff!

Externally, we are our focused on providing the best advice and assistance to our clients, and in some cases we are making some real tough decisions. Unfortunately, the tough decisions cause some people to feel some pain. It has been one of those weeks, and sheesh, it is only Thursday.

Why share my burdens with you?

Because as difficult as being an entrepreneur might be, I can't imagine living any other life. My life is not perfect, but it is awfully close. I have great people with whom I work, great clients who place their trust in our group, people who find interest in what I have to say. I get to travel the world simply to share my thoughts, and I get to choose what I do every day of the week. On the personal side, I have a group of close friends who I can always rely upon, I share a great relationship with my siblings, and I have a loving and supportive wife who has learned to live with an entrepreneur who never stops working. I can't imagine any other life.

Check out this video. It was originally shared by Peter Shankman, and then Chasidy Atchison, and when I was feeling a bit frustrated yesterday, I watched it and it helped remind me all of the things that I love about my work life. And if you are not an entrepreneur, watch it anyways. Whatever role you perform in your business life, this video will be a great reminder as to why we work as hard as we do.

Thanks for allowing me to share with you the frustrations of the week, and why I look forward to having similar issues for the rest of my life. I love being an entrepreneur!

Live Long & Prosper

Marketing is simply telling a story, and telling the story especially well.

The market rewards the best storytellers, through the purchase of their product, their service, or whatever it is they might be selling.

Images Yesterday at lunch, we were having a conversation, and we were discussing the new Star Trek movie. Only one of the four of us had seen it, and she shared with us how much she enjoyed the film. A second person said that they don’t know the Star Trek story (she’s young, we forgive her), so she wasn’t sure whether or not she would go see the new version. However, when finding out it was a JJ Abrams film, she seemed to change her mind a bit, and became more intrigued.

Why?

Because JJ Abrams has a reputation as a great storyteller. Whether it is LOST, or The Fringe, Cloverfield, or Star Trek, he really knows how to tell a story. He knows how to maintain your interest, with words and images. He is able to keep his audience thinking, and he adds the unexpected to simply force you to think some more. Great storytellers can always command an audience. People hang on their words.

Share a Great Story

Think about this the next time you discuss your product, your business, your service, or yourself. Don’t simply talk; instead, tell a great story. Choose your words carefully. Make certain you include details in your stories. Help people get interested in what you have to say by putting great thought behind your story.  Be descriptive, be intriguing, and be exciting. Develop a style to your story-telling, whether you are writing a blog, posting on Twitter, updating your Facebook status, or simply having a face-to-face conversation with a human (crazy, huh?) over coffee.

Whatever it is you have to say, say it with conviction, with passion, with love. Choose your words with care; words have power.

Tell a great story! People will listen. People will continue to come back for more. People will become believers. People will share your passion.

People will share your story. 

Evolution is Not a Theory

Evolution.

When you hear this word, and you think of your business and your business life, what does evolution mean to you?

The other day, I was having this discussion with Chasidy and Alina as we worked on the speaking gigs in which I'm involved. When they asked me how I would describe myself as it relates to my career in marketing, I suggested that I am a guy with over 30 years experience, who over time has evolved. I haven't forgotten the basics of marketing (great headlines, great copy, targeted message, targeted audience, integration, etc.), but at the same time I have adopted the new technologies and new methodologies that have become necessary to help the message rise above the clutter. 

Evolution is important in all facets of your life; without evolution, we simply will disappear no different than the dinosaurs did thousands of years ago. Everyone and everything has to evolve to survive.

Evolution in Product Development

Darwin would be proud as to how we have evolved in product marketing; both in the product development itself and the way we communicate the message.

There is a new product on the market from Nestle's Juicy Juice, called Juicy Juice Brain Development. The company claims it is enhanced with DHA, which will help enhance a child's brain development. Imagine, a fruit juice that not only tastes good, but one that will help your child get smarter, faster, and developer quicker. Quite a claim!

How we have evolved.

When I was a kid, we were told to drink a juice that was marketed by illustrating how it would help us hit a guy in the face. I practiced on my brother regularly. No brain development for us!

Evolution is something!


The Oprah Factor

A quick Saturday post after having taken a week off to recharge my brain batteries. Happy to be back.

When I was early in my career, I used to listen to motivational tapes on my commute to and from work. It seems a bit hokey now, and I stopped this practice long ago, but there was a point in my career when I needed a good kick in the butt, and I put together a self-improvement plan. One of the motivational catch phrases that I learned then, and one that has always stuck with me is "Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people choose not to do." 

It is a simple phrase, but poignant. Having more success is a choice. Working harder, taking more risks, learning more, studying longer, taking the extra step to create a better product, more innovative product, promoting your product, willingness to promote yourself; these are all choices. Only you can decide how much risk you are willing to take to reach your ultimate goal. 

Why am I sharing this? 

It is tough out there. If you are unemployed and looking for a job, and you are promoting your personal brand, you have to be more creative than ever before to stand out from the crowd. If you are a start-up launching a new product in these difficult economic times, you have to think of creative ways to rise above the clutter. If you are an established business that is looking for ways to increase revenues while most people are cutting back on their spending, you need to assess the marketplace, and determine how much you are willing to change both the way you communicate your message, and what you are willing to share with your customers, your prospects, the people with whom you connect.

You have to believe in yourself, your product, your service, and then you have to have the guts to follow your belief.

Take a look at this video of an unknown singer, Bernard Lachance, to see what it means to really believe in your product, and do what is necessary to rise above the clutter. While watching it, also take note of the integrated marketing methods he incorporates, and how many unique ways (including the video itself) Lachance communicates the value of the product he is marketing.

Have a great weekend!

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