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Slow Down, You Move to Fast

It frustrates me when I miss a couple days of blogging. I always feel that I Iet people down when I do that. But I have been running like crazy for the last couple of weeks, and I could not find the necessary time to get everything out of my head, and on to the computer screen on a timely basis. I have submitted a request to the powers that be that days be extended from 24 hours to 27, but to date my request has not been acted upon. So here I am, having to figure out how to squeeze everything into the 24 hours with which we all have to work.

Which brings me to today's subject.

189 I have a couple of friends (they are young, energetic twenty-somethings) who have been extolling the virtues of the 5-hour energy shot drinks. They like to talk about the fact that after waking up early, going to the gym, working a 12-hour day, maybe another visit to the gym, and then out for a night on the town, they still have energy due to the shots. If you were not aware, the energy shot business is projected to hit $700 million this year.

I have to admit, I have pounded down the energy shots myself. On my last couple of trips to Europe, which tend to be short stays that never allow my body to adjust to the time difference, as I slide into early afternoon, I'll down an energy shot to keep me going through my dinner meetings. Can't be good for my blood pressure!

So let's go back to my friends. As of late, even at their young age, they have started to experience heart palpitations, racing of the heart, shakes, and a bit of light-headedness. Which I think is our body's way of telling us, SLOW DOWN! There is no way that all of these energy drinks and energy shots are good for our system.

The other day I was introduced to a new product that currently has limited distribution in Canada. Called Slow Cow , this drink is the anti-energy drink. For people who have been hepped up on Red Bull, Slow Cow is way to take life a bit easier, and slow the body down. In some of their ads, they claim it is "Relaxation in a Can" or "Acupuncture Session in a Can". It's all about slowing down. In fact, even on the home page of their website, under the Contact Us button, they have an image of a rotary dial phone, which is a lot slower than a push button. (If I have to explain rotary dial phones to readers, it is a whole other problem).

So, for all of you who are running like mad, gulping down the energy elixirs to keep yourself going, you might want to try a Slow Cow to take it down a notch. Relax...

Note to Joel Warady Group employees; Slow Cow drinks are only to be consumed on the weekends. During the week, we will continue to supply the coffee and energy drinks that we have always been happy to provide. We have way too much work to do!

Have a relaxing weekend.

Your Loss is Another's Gain

I received a call from a distraught friend the other day. 

ImagesThe company in which he works, and at which he holds a position of considerable responsibility, had just been informed that they had lost a major customer. They are a B2B company, and are considered one of the leaders in their category. They have an excellent reputation throughout the US, and it is based upon this reputation and the relationships that they have built, that their business has grown.

Because they have had success over the years, they have never marketed. They became complacent. Yes, the company has a website, has a printed brochure, attends trade shows, but that is the extent of their marketing.

They don't tell their customers how they are innovating.

They don't allow customers to see inside their company, and to see how things might be improving.

They don't share their industry insights with their customers.

They don't provide their customers with an opportunity to share thoughts, neither positive or negative.

They don't engage with their customers, they simply sell them stuff.

They don't tell any great stories.

They don't create love.

They don't market.

And then they act surprised when they lose a customer! I hate to be brutal, but what did they think would happen? If you don't talk to your customers, if you don't allow your customers to talk to you, if you don't allow your customers to fall in love with you, how can a company think they can retain their customers?

What about your company, your brand, yourself. Does any of this sound like your situation?

If yes, fix the problem! Quickly!

The Times, They Are A Changin

Images If Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko character was standing in front of an auditorium of shareholders today, he might change his opening from “Greed is Good” to “Change is Challenging”.

The fact is, never has it been more important to be willing to embrace change. The economy has forced it. Technology has enabled it. The marketplace has demanded it.

  • Business, as we know it, has forever changed.
  • Consumer behavior has changed.
  • Consumer spending has changed.
  • Brand loyalty has changed.
  • Employee loyalty has changed.
  • Career choices have changed.
  • The length of time people spend at their career has changed.
  • Corporate titles have changed.
  • Corporate goals have changed.
  • Investor expectations have changed.
  • Length of time to develop products and services have changed.
  • The way we sell has changed.
  • The way we market has changed.
  • Allotted time to reach success has changed.
  • The way we communicate has changed.
  • The ways in which we build relationships have changed.
  • The definition of a relationship has changed.
  • The definition of a friend has changed.

Change is difficult. But if you don’t embrace change, and figure out how to adapt, change will beat you. If you aren’t willing to embrace change, your brand will die, your employees will leave, your customers will disappear, your company revenues will fall, and your corporate entity will cease to exist.

Sometimes we make conscious decisions to change. Sometimes change is forced upon us. Either way, change is inevitable. Nothing can stay the same forever; that would simply make life unbearably boring. The challenge that we have today is that change happens so quickly, that if you aren’t watching out for it, things can change right before your eyes, and you won’t have time to react. It is so important to always be looking out for the signs that say “times, they are a changin’”.

Change is Challenging.

Change is Good.

Embrace Change.

Staying Cool in the Summer

The hardest thing in the world is remaining cool.

Trust me, I know. There was a time in my life when I was kind of cool, but now I'm just Joel. And those of you who are cool today, well you will see what I mean 20 years from now. Maintaining one's coolness is not an easy task.

Images I read a book about this not too long ago. The book is titled Chasing Cool, and discusses the challenge of creating cool brands, products, and services. Chasing cool is a full-time job, and most people and most companies never achieve the desired level of coolness.

Which leads me to Target. While I like Target, I'm not necessarily in love with their stores or their merchandising. But I LOVE their marketing. And they never cease to amaze me how they continue to keep themselves cool.

Take a look at this recent ad starring The Black Eyed Peas. Would you ever see Wal-Mart being this hip? I don't think so. 

Target is simply cool!

Where Are My Sea Monkeys?

Great marketing can sell any product. Even if the product is less than great.

When I was a kid, which seems to be some time ago, we used to have ads in the back of comic books. The ads were for things that we could purchase for a relatively small amount of money, but of course we never really needed these things. Over the years, I purchased a lot of great "stuff", and I have fond memories of the Mexican Jumping Beans and the "Pepper-Flavored" chewing gum arriving in the mail, and how excited I was to receive my purchase.

But I also recall the time that I placed an order for a product, that I never did receive. Ever! Sure, if it happened today, I would Tweet about it, blog about it, post the negative experience on my Facebook status update, attempting to embarrass the company into fulfilling the order and making good on their promise. But back then, none of these tools existed, so I simply sulked. I had to listen to my Dad tell me why I wasn't too smart to have wasted my hard earned money.

For some reason, sitting in Starbucks today, the ad popped into my mind, simply because I recall it being a great example of marketing. It was powerful enough that it separated me from my $1.25.

Since I never received the product, I never had the opportunity to enjoy the family of Sea Monkeys frolicking in my home. Can someone please enlighten me as to what the Sea Monkeys really were? And did you really receive a whole family as depicted in the ad; a Mother, a Father, and two kids?

My favorite line of copy in the ad is "Own a Bowl Full of Happiness". Interestingly enough, I know a lot of people who enjoyed a bowl full of happiness while I was in college, but the bowl didn't have sea monkeys frolicking inside.

Marketing sure has changed.... 


I Flip Over Niche Opportunities

As many people who follow me know, I love niche businesses. I always say, find a niche, get great at it, own it, and you have a business that will thrive and prosper. The large companies will leave you alone (or acquire you), and the smaller companies will never execute as well as you do. Niches lead to riches! (Hey, I just made that up; the creative juices are flowing today! But of course, that saying does not work for my British readers who pronounce the word niche as neesh…rhyming with “Sheesh, why can’t they learn to speak English correctly”?)

There is something else that I love. When someone creates a niche business that is built on a niche business. In essence, after the original niche has been developed, it begets another niche business that takes advantage of the first established niche. The result is what I like to call a niche-to-the-second-power, and it simply shows how innovative people can be. Allow me to share one of these business ideas with you.

Images I have been using a Flip camera since they were first introduced in 2006. If you are not familiar with Flip camera, in its purest form, it is a very inexpensive video camera, that fits in your pocket, has 60 min. of video storage available, and has a built-in USB connection that flips open and allows you to download the video footage to your computer, or upload to YouTube and Facebook with one push of the button. Instead of being a feature rich camera, it is a minimal feature camera that allows you to have video capabilities with you at all times. For under $200.

Flip has become hugely successful, and you see thousands of people carrying these cameras with them to capture video wherever and whenever it happens. In fact, the cameras have sold so well, that Cisco recently purchased the company to allow them to better tap the consumer market. Cisco saw the niche, and wanted to own it through acquisition.

Here comes the niche-to-the-second-power.

Pixability is a company that will send you a Flip camera with shot guides, allow you to shoot video of whatever you want, send the camera back to them, and they will professionally edit the video, adding titles, music, transitions, and your corporate or personal logo. All this for $495. What a great idea! It allows you to have a professional looking, promotional video all for under $500. Genius!

A great example of a niche service built upon a niche product. Keep this in mind when you are thinking about the services and products that your company offers, or could offer. The niche opportunities are there, all one has to do is find them, and exploit them. Are there any niche ideas waiting to happen within your own business?


Pure Words, Pure Imagery

When I drive to work in the morning, I’m a News Radio type of guy. Because I consider myself a news junkie, even though I find myself in the car for only 15 minutes, I like to get my news fix as opposed to listening to music, and the same is true when driving home.

Lighthouse_About This summer, I have been intrigued by a series of ads that have been playing on the radio, and they are ads put forth by the state of Michigan travel bureau. I know that I have heard similar ads for the state of Michigan in the past, but for some reason, this year I have really taken notice of these ads, part of a series named Pure Michigan.

In fact, just the other day, sitting at a stoplight, listening to one of their radio spots, I was mesmerized with the words and imagery that were used for the ad. I thought it was some of the best written copy that I have ever heard, and the picture that was painted, both with the choice of words, and the intonation and timbre of the voice; well it made me want to both visit Michigan (again), as well as find out who was behind the campaign.

But Advertising Age beat me to it. They recently ran an article about the ad campaign, and imagine my surprise when I read that the voice on the radio and TV spots was that of Buzz Lightyear. I didn’t realize this until I read it, and of course now when I hear the ads, I certainly recognize that it is Tim Allen.

There are a couple of lessons to be learned from this marketing campaign. First, in this world of technological tricks and consumer-generated media, there remains nothing better than meticulously written, perfectly chosen words. Words have power, words can paint a picture, and words can take you to another place simply by the way they are written. The Michigan.org campaign does this beautifully.

Secondly, the power of the spoken word is sometimes even greater than the impact of the written word. Speaking properly, and understanding how to use the right emphasis, at the right time; well, it is a talent that seems to be less important to most people today, but one that can help position a person, or a company, as a leader in its field.

I love this campaign. Listen to the ads, starting with the one for Mackinac Island. I recommend that you listen with your eyes closed, and “see” the pictures that the words present. Then think about this the next time you write some copy for your website, your sales letter, or simply when you post on your Facebook site, or Twitter. Words can make the difference between failure and success.

Words are powerful; use them well.


Old School Marketing

Sometimes, old school is just really cool.

When it comes to an iconic brand image, is there anything better than the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile? When you see the Wienermobile driving down the street, do you ever wonder what it is? No, never. It is a wiener on wheels, and it has basically looked pretty much the same since 1936.

6 The Wienermobile has been in the news recently. On Friday of last week, the Wienermobile crashed through a home in Wisconsin after the driver stepped on the gas thinking the vehicle was in reverse, but instead found that it was in drive. It resulted in the wiener shaped vehicle poking through the garage of a homeowner.

(There are so many jokes that can be inserted here, I simply don't know where to begin, so I shall let everyone think of their their own stories. Actually I really do know where to begin, but I have restrained myself.)

This comes just 10 days after the death of Oscar Meyer, the retired chairman of the hot dog and bologna company. While there were no Wienermobiles at the funeral (missed opportunity, in my opinion) many people consider it an honor to have been affiliated with the Wienermobile. Advertising Age recently had an article about one of the Wienermobile's former drivers, and his recollection of his first job out of college driving one of the coolest cars in America.

The fact is, this is a brand that has been around for a really long time, it hasn't changed its colors, its logo, its packaging, or its image. And they sell a lot of hot dogs, using really traditional marketing.

What are your experiences with this rolling wiener? Sometimes old school is simply really cool.


Lifestyle Brand? That's a Croc of .......

While I am not a student of the Bible, I'm sure there must be some reference along the lines of Thou Shalt Not Say "I Told You So", or something like that. Although, come to think of it, after Moses warned Pharaoh that plagues would be set upon Egypt, and in fact they did happen, I think he went back to Pharaoh and said "See, I told you that would happen. Now would you please let us leave? My peeps and I want to go!" Or something like that. So maybe it is okay in certain circumstances. But I digress.

Let's talk about Crocs. As in "Are those things on your feet colored plastic wet wipe containers, or are they some weird pair of shoes with holes?"

Images I have never liked Crocs. When I first saw them, I thought they were a joke. When I then saw them on what seemed like 95% of America, I thought the world had gone mad. They were ugly, they were plastic shoes, they were everywhere, and I absolutely swore that I would never put a pair on my feet. Ever! And I still haven't.

In July 2007, on Retail Wire, an online industry newsletter, I commented that I thought Crocs would eventually disappear, and would never become a lifestyle brand as some suggested. This was right after they introduced a line of clothing, and the Crocs CEO said there was no stopping the brand.

Again in March 2008, I declared that Crocs were a fad, and fads die. This was in response to Crocs threatening to sue Costco for selling their shoes. I suggested the day would come that Crocs would beg Costco to sell their product.

People continued to tell me how wrong I was, and that the shoes were the most comfortable things in the world, and the brand would become similar to Nike, here forever, across a wide range of footwear and clothing.

And then I read an article in yesterday's Washington Post titled Once Trendy Crocs Could Be On Their Last Legs. Last year the Crocs brand lost $185 million, and reduced their workforce by 2000 workers. The CEO who took them into clothing has been fired. The auditors have stated publicly that they do not think the company can survive. They have until September, 2009 to pay down their debt, or as one analyst states, "they are toast".

I wish no ill will on anyone. Seriously. But when companies become arrogant, as Crocs did, and they continue to grow into areas in which they don't belong, which Crocs did, and they threaten to sue major retailers for selling their product when they aren't authorized, which Crocs did, don't they deserve what's coming to them? 

Hubris! It will kill a brand or a company every time!

I can't say I'm sorry to see Crocs go. In my opinion, they were ugly and silly, and didn't belong on people's feet. But the brand could have survived if it had been managed better, if it had not expanded into areas in which it had no expertise, and if it had stayed smaller, more controllable, and most importantly, profitable. This will be a great case study in the series of why brands fail.

All that being said, I wonder if in fact Moses had traded his sandals for a more comfortable pair of Crocs, would it still have taken him 40 years to cross the desert. Hmmmm, there might be a marketing campaign here. 

No Such Thing as a Bad Idea

Some companies just get it. Best Buy is one of those companies.

We speak a lot about the fact that companies need to constantly look at ways in which they can engage with their customers. We discuss the importance of speaking with your customer, not at your customer, and being willing to listen to what they have to say.

Images We implore our clients to look at ways in which they can use their customers to create more remarkable products and services, which will result in a stronger, more successful company. We encourage our clients to take chances, try new things, not to be afraid to take risks. Be willing to look at ways in which customers can help you develop your company, which should result in a more loyal customer following.

Take a look at what Best Buy is doing with their IdeaX site. What a great execution! Not only are they asking their customers to help them with feedback, but they take it a step further by asking their customers to help develop products, services, and offerings. And in a great example of transparency, they mention numerous times that there might be areas on the site that don't work they want it to, so hang in there. It is all one big experiment. Fantastic!

Read some additional copy that they use throughout the site. When reading their words, and listening to their tone, think about how you and your company speaks to your customers or clients. How can you communicate better with the people who make you a success?

1. Tell us what you want

2. Your voice is important

3. Tell your friend

4. Got something to say?

5. Connect directly with people at Best Buy

6. Open conversation

7. We'll listen

8. Talk back

9. Sharing your ideas

10. Community

Best Buy absolutely gets it. What about your company?

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