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Nothing Says...

This past Saturday, two marketing pieces ended up on my kitchen table at home.

CIMG6183 In the mail, an over-sized postcard arrived from American Express. With the headline stating "Nothing says thank you quite like free nights in paradise", the postcard suggests that the more friends that I refer to American Express, the more points I can earn. 

CIMG6185 On the same day, placed on my front door from Comcast was a door hanger with the headline "Nothing says we want you back like $89.99!" They seem to want our business back after we switched to AT&T.

Nothing Says Thank You Quite Like Free Nights in Paradise

Nothing Says We Want You Back Like $89.99

Well, actually, there is something....

American Express, if you simply would have called me and said Thank-you for my 25 years of being a card member, that would go a long way. As well, you can apologize for reducing my credit line by $35,000 due to the "credit crunch" even though I have never once missed a payment, and have used my card to purchase over $1.2 million dollars of products, for which you have received ample fees.

Comcast, if you simply would have called to apologize for cheating us for all of the years that we paid you $163 per month, and offered to refund us the difference between that and the $89.99 you are now offering, we might consider coming back. All you have to do is say your sorry, that you realize how much you appreciate us as a customer now that we are gone and you wish you would have said thank-you sooner, and you feel badly that you screwed up.

When you have a marketing piece that starts with "Nothing says....", I bet something does say. I bet if you are willing to speak directly to your customer, whether by phone, by email, or using social media, I would suspect you will get a significantly better response than the 1 - 2% you can expect from a direct mail campaign.

Nothing says thank-you, better than saying...thank-you.

Why Twitter is Like Mayberry

As you can imagine, I am constantly asked what the big deal is about Twitter, and why do people waste their time sending out meaningless messages. While I constantly find myself extolling the great virtues of Twitter, and defending its position within social media, to people who simply "don't want to get it", I find it difficult to find the right explanation to convert the non-believers into evangelists. That is, until I had an interesting experience occur the other day. Which leads me to this conclusion...

Twitter is like living in Mayberry....

Images Here's what happened. It was lunchtime in the city in which I have my office. Our offices are in Evanston, IL, home of Northwestern University, a town of about 75,000 people located just north of Chicago. I was walking down the street, and heard someone call out my name. When I turned, and saw someone walking towards me with an outstretched hand, to be honest, I simply could not place the face. While I meet a lot of people in my consulting work or my speaking, I'm usually good at remembering people. But this person did not look familiar to me.

When he reached me, he introduced himself, and said he recognized me from the photo on my Twitter page. He shared with me how much he enjoyed my Tweets, he gave me his business card, and he was on his way. While this has happened to me previously at business events, this was the first time it happened on a street corner during a random day. It was just like being in a small town, where everyone knows one another.

Like Mayberry, Twitter allows you to create a community of people who are interested in you, interested in what you have to say, and over time, you build a relationship with your community. While the relationship might start on-line, it easily can spill over to the offline world. Because Twitter allows you to interact in asynchronous time, and allows you to get to know one another through the relationship building based on trust, and level of interest, when you do meet face to face, the relationship is already in place. Twitter jump starts being social.

When my random Twitter follower walked up to me on the streets of Evanston, with a welcome hand, stating that he enjoyed what I had to say, I felt just like Sheriff Andy Taylor, walking the streets of Mayberry, saying hello to the town-folk, and providing a welcome "Howdy Stranger!" to the new visitor to his town.

Twitter builds trust, it builds interest in one another, it builds relationships, it builds community. It builds familiarity

It builds communities of Andys, Barneys & Floyds. It is our Mayberry.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Why do you think we, as humans, don’t listen better?

It’s interesting.

There are classes that teach reading.

There are classes that teach writing.

There are classes that teach speaking.

There are classes that teach better use of words.

There are classes that teach techniques of memory.

But as far as I am aware, there are not classes that teach us how to listen. Really listen.

Images Do we hear what people are telling us? Do we hear our customers, our employers, our colleagues, our friends, our children, our parents, our significant others?

Do we hear the marketplace?

They’re telling us what they want, but are we properly listening?

I’m not so sure…..

We All Scream for Ice Cream

You've heard it from me before. If you want to rise above the clutter of all the other companies out there that are providing similar products or services such as those that you offer, you have to be different. You have to be unique.

Seth Godin states it succinctly in his book Purple Cow, you have to be remarkable.

While it is not easy to always think of new and remarkable ways to stand out from the crowd, when you do find the magic formula, people will talk about you. At the end of the day, your product has to be great if people are going to continue to want it, but to start with, you definitely want to create a buzz-worthy story around the brand.

Which leads us to a company that "gets it". Today we talk about ice cream.

Ice cream has been around for ages. There is cheap, boring ice cream on the market. There are premium products on the market rich in taste and texture. There are super-premium products available that cost a significant amount of money for each delicious scoop, and are available in exotic flavors. And for awhile, we were all excited by the funky flavors and names offered by Ben & Jerry's, but now that they are owned by a soap company, the brand has lost a bit of its luster. But if you are looking for excitement in your ice cream, we've got the brand for you.

N121161622737_9495 Start with whip-yielding dominatrices. (Please don't ask me why I know what the plural form of dominatrix is.) Add slogans like "God Save the Cream". Place the retail store in one of the largest high-end retail locations in London, Selfridges. Finally, feature a male-targeted ice cream cocktail named The Sex Pistol, which is laden with Viagra and Absinthe ice cream, served in a pink water pistol that is ready to be... well, you get the picture, right? Welcome to the world of The ICECREAMISTS!

It's ice cream gone bad boy. It's ice cream theater. It's a way of taking a product that is available at every gas station, every convenience store, every supermarket, every McDonald's, and then executing it in a remarkable way to make certain that the brand rises above the clutter. (There are so many double entendres that lend themselves to this story, I have decided to crack the whip and force myself to stay away from this cheap humor).

Spend some time on their website. (Warning! It is a bit loud if you are looking at it while at work). I've also included a teaser video as to how their Selfridges store will look. The video is short, so it won't dominate (sorry) too much of your time.

When visiting their site, and reading about how they position their offering, think of the things that you might be abe to do to really create some uniqueness in the way your product, your service, your company, or for that matter, you are presented to your prospects or your customers. While we aren't suggesting you don a dog collar and stilettos (not that there's anything wrong with it), there are other ways in which you can become remarkable!

As for the Ice Creamists...you have to love the fun. It DOES bring a whole new meaning to whipped cream.

SEC - Start Embracing Change?

Yesterday I ran across a news report talking about the fact that the SEC (the college conference, not the Securities and Exchange Commission) wants to ban the use of all social media at their sporting events. It seems that they feel it is a violation of their profit generating network agreements if they were to allow fans to report on the events live via Twitter, post photos on Facebook, Flickr, or upload videos to YouTube.

Thus we have another example of people who simply don’t “get it.”

Images-3 First off, and I talk about this a lot, so I apologize for repeating myself, but brand owners do not really own their brands. The consumers own the brands. If you have a brand, you can think it stands for whatever you want it to stand for, but the fact is, the consumer is going to determine the ultimate personality of the brand.

Therefore you are not really brand owners, but brand caretakers. You create the brand, you maintain the brand, you put the best product or service you can out in the marketplace, but then you have to allow the consumer to determine how the product is going to be used, where it will be used, and if they LOVE the product, the consumer will become a brand advocate and want to spread the word.

Which brings us back to the misguided bureaucrats at the SEC.

If the fans sitting in a football game are excited about what they see on the field, and want to send a Tweet to hundreds if not thousands of followers that they have on Twitter, or upload an exciting video via their iPhone, to their YouTube channel sharing the game experience, why in the heck would the SEC want to stop this? Why would they want to potentially quiet their brand ambassadors who desire to share their enthusiasm about the SEC brand with their friends? These people are influencers among their friends, and you should never want to muffle the voice of influencers. It makes absolutely no sense.

Images-4 The fact is, the SEC has no control over what their fans can do via Twitter or any other social media network. And with this “ruling”, they have done more harm then good. They have tarnished their brand by trying to dictate how the brand experience can be shared.

Message to the SEC: People, the world has changed! Embrace it. Understand it. Use it to your advantage.

Good luck trying to police your fan’s use of social media. They, not you, own your brand.


As Time Goes By

When the economy is difficult, we all tend to run our businesses a bit differently.

In September 1996, Wal-Mart announced that they refused to carry Sheryl Crow's new album. They didn't like the fact that lyrics on the album talked about Wal-Mart selling guns. But Sheryl Crow! She's pretty harmless, isn't she?


In August 2009, Wal-Mart announced that they would be exclusively releasing the new album from heavy-metal band, KISS. Sonic Boom will be available at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club on October 6. KISS and Wal-Mart in a partnership; never thought I'd see the day.


Sheryl Crow is too controversial for Wal-Mart. KISS is tame enough for an exclusive arrangement.

When the economy is bad, I guess we all make our decisions a bit differently. 

Who Needs Time Travel?

Over the weekend, I went to see The Time Traveler's Wife

Which got me thinking....

Images If time travel actually worked (and maybe it does, who's to say), and you could travel back in time, what would you do differently?

Would you take different classes in school?

Would you study harder and try and learn more?

Would you change the way you performed in your job?

Would you alter your career path?

Would you change the products or services that you bring to the marketplace?

Would you change the way your business is organized?

Would you treat people differently than you treated them in the past?

Would you apologize to someone who was important to you, and you might have wronged?

Would you thank someone you forgot to thank?

Would you change the way you communicate with others?

Would you alter the way you approach each day?

Would you simply be better?

Guess what. You don't need to be a time traveler to do this. You just need to be willing to change. It doesn't mean it is any easier, it just means it is more doable.

Just something to think about....

Who's Your Ideal Man?

I love the mixed messages marketers send to kids.

Today I'm speaking about Barbie.

14barbie Over the 50+ years of Barbie's existence, opponents to the Mattel product have always felt that it sent the wrong message to little girls who owned the doll. Their position has been that Barbie promoted the stereotype that if you had a killer body that was almost impossible to attain, with the smallest waist to breast proportions ever seen on a human, and you had California style blond hair with a slightly upturned perfect nose, you could get whatever you wanted in life. This includes a Ken-like man, with chiseled good lucks, saying absolutely nothing, with no male genitalia, who could make any woman happy.

But now I really think we are sending the wrong message.

It has been announced that Twilight Barbie is being introduced in November. There will be replica dolls from the movie series, and they will be available at both Wal-Mart and Barbiecollector.com.

Is this the message that we want to convey to young girls growing up? Should we be teaching them that their ultimate goal should be to find a vampire, albeit a nice, great looking vampire, who will take good care of you, who has super strength, who can fly, and who will never die? I tend to think that this type of man is going to be really hard to find, and there might be a lot of disappointed females 15 years from now when these young girls grow up and can't find their dream vampire.

Just my opinion...

One last thing about this whole vampire phenomenon. I think I personally was way ahead of the curve. I dated a girl in college, and she must have thought I was the Edward Cullen of my time. Every day, she would say to me "Joel, you suck!" I should have picked up on the clue.

SEO - Significant Engagement Opportunities

I have a client meeting later today, and I've already been told that they want to know why they are not appearing higher on Google rankings. They want to discuss Search Engine Optimization, and how they can implement an SEO project to make certain that their company comes up on the first page of multiple keyword searches.

Images-1 So I've been thinking about this over the last couple of days, and have watched a few speakers via the Internet to gain different perspectives, and here is what it I think it boils down to. 

If you want to improve your rankings on search engines, you need to do the following three things, and do them consistently:

1. Communicate - Never stop communicating with the marketplace. Keep talking. Every day.

2. Engage - When your customers are talking, either to your or amongst themselves, engage with them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Respond to them. Ask them questions. Answer their questions. Build trust.

3. Be Interesting - When you are communicating, when you are engaging, don't be boring. Don't speak corporate speak, talk to people like you were sitting next to them in your backyard, or as if you were having lunch with them. Have a conversation. Share your thoughts, your ideas, your fears, your challenges, your excitement, your passion, your love. Share yourself.

Do you think I'm over-simplifying things? Here's a test you can try to see if I might be right. Choose a search phrase that is meaningful to your business. Type it in to Google. I'll bet you that with 9 out of 10 search keywords, a blog, someone's blog, appears within the first two pages of results.

That's a blog where you should be posting comments.

That's a blog where you should be submitting products or information for review.

That's a blogger with whom you should be engaged.

That's a blogger with whom you should be building trust and communicating.

So you want to discuss SEO? Fine! But I am suggesting that we change the meaning of SEO from Search Engine Optimization to Significant Engagement Opportunities.

That's the type of SEO we all should be taking advantage of. Let me know what you think.

Failure is Not an Option

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be the 2nd day opening speaker in front of a great group of people. I was speaking at the National Association of Electrical Distributors' marketing conference. It's always great to be able to speak a group of marketers, because they really buy into the concepts that I like to share in my presentation.

Images My talk yesterday focused on the fact that the world is changing so rapidly, as is the way we market our businesses. While we all know that there are a plethora of Web 2.0 technologies that exist, my talk focused on how important it is to integrate these technologies into their own marketing plans at their respective companies.

As I talked about the fact that in my own business, as a way to reach my clients and prospects at numerous customer touchpoints, I Tweet, I blog, I update my Facebook status, I update my Linked-in network, I post photos on Flickr, and I upload videos to You-Tube, one of the participants asked a serious question, and I have to admit, at the time of the talk, I didn't really answer because I wanted to move on with the presentation.

He asked, "If you are doing all of these things that you weren't doing before, what have you given up?"

Okay, here's my answer; "I gave up the option to fail."

We don't really have a choice. If we don't participate in all of these new initiatives, our competition will, and then where will we be? It reminds me of an old motivational saying that appeared on one of those framed posters you see in corporate cubicles.

Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people choose not to do.

Changing the way we do business is tough. Not changing the way we do business will ultimately be tougher. 

Don't you agree?

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