Friday, December 21, 2007

Toilet Emergency and Marketing Genius All in One

Driving to the office today, I pulled up to a light and saw an ambulance turning thru the intersection in front of me.

Only it wasn't an ambulance, it was a plumber's truck.

I most certainly did a double take when I saw the word "Plumber" on the side of what once must have been an ambulance. It was not a typical plumbing contractor's pickup truck and it immediately caught my attention for the stark juxtaposition that the lettering imposed.

I don't often say this in the world of contractor marketing, but what a genius idea!

Not only does a typical ambulance catch your eye when you're on the road just because of the sheer presence that ambulances have, but seeing the word "plumber" on it really grabs your attention. Now THAT'S a plumber worth talking about!

I.e.: Got a toilet emergency? Call the plumber in the ambulance! He's gotta be the fastest one to the scene, right?

This forges the question: how can you market your brand in a way that's memorable to your customers and target audience?

If your branding needs cardiac resusitation, well, I'll leave the rest of this metaphor up to you...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Reindeer Rant About Junk Mail: Reflections On the Original Spam.

What do those who light fireplaces at Christmas, own pet patridges, and ship fragile gifts to far away lands have in common?

All have managed to find a use for junk mail.

I'm sure there are plenty of folks who have found other uses for it besides starting a fire, catching bird droppings, or packing away a precious vase. Perhaps they've won a big money sweepstakes, applied for a new credit card, or cut out a turkey coupon. Personally, I want the stuff to stop. I can find anything I need on my own without a stranger stuffing my tiny mailbox with the guts of yet another, unsuspecting tree. And around the holidays, it becomes the "stuff" of nightmares as it takes up room that might otherwise be used for well-wishing cards and the very occasional money envelope.

As marketers, we try and solicit business in many ways, and snail mail is one route that can be effective as long as a few rules are observed. Problems begin when we find our company's well-worked calling card getting lumped in with the stack of someone else's garbage that they've been so kind as to pass along.

So if you're as fed up as I am with junk mail, and wish to do something about it, there are a few places on the internet - like here, here and here - that might be able to help you make a little more room, and clear a few desks for our marketing materials in the process.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jingle Ads, Jingle Ads, Jingle All the Way...

(First, allow me to apologize for today's blog post title. Corny, but relevant.)

Anywho, an interesting post on BrandingStrategyInsider.com today talks about the first radio jingle ever, which was a radio ad for Wheaties in 1923. Yep, that's the one that started it all. According to the post, the otherwise dying brand, at the time, was revolutionized because of the popularity of this jingle, thus saving Wheaties from extinction.

Today, ad jingles on radio and TV are prevalent everywhere you turn. Some are quite clever, some are quite terrible, and some just blend into the background. Without a doubt, the challenge of squeezing a well-written, memorable song into a 30-second plug while simultaneously telling the product's whole story is indeed one of the more challenging areas of advertising. But, as the Wheaties song can attest, it can also be one of the most effective if done properly. Even in today's scattered media market.

So eat your Wheaties and get writing...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Enter Site".... Ummm, Okay, Don't Mind if I Do

Every now and then I come across a web site that has an "intro" page. These pages can be found on sites old and new. Here's an example.

These types of intros make for nifty openings, but are mostly considered outdated nowadays because people just want to get to the meat of the site, not sit through an elaborate show. This rings true especially if you've been to the site many times or if you're operating on a crawling connection. Or if you're working at a B2B company and you're looking for a site while on the job. Who has time to wait?

But to add insult to injury, on this intro page, after the Flash intro (or other similar concoction), sites will often plop a link on the page that says something to the effect of: "Enter Site".

Ummm, okay, well thanks, I think I would like to enter this site, don't mind if I do.

Let's be realistic here: when I typed in your site's home page address or found your site on a search engine... doesn't that, by default, mean I already have entered the site?
Time to trim the fat, folks. No need to have a doorman to welcome you and ask if you'd like to enter the house when you're dealing with web marketing.

Everybody should be welcomed in as quickly and easily as possible.
(Thanks to onemansblog.com for the photo!)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"What's-a Matter Colonel Sanders, Chicken?"

Spaceballs has always been one of my favorite movies, and the quote by Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) that I referenced here in the title has always stuck with me. Classic line. ("Ludicrous speed, go!")

That "chicken" quote came to mind this morning when I came across an interesting blog post on Ad Lab (click the link to learn more). The gist of the post is that KFC has placed a jumbo sized image of Colonel Sanders in the Nevada desert and the image can now be seen on Google Maps and Google Earth. It's outdoor advertising gone supersized.
I suppose this trend will slowly take hold across America and across the world as more and more people go to Google to cruise around the globe to get a bird's eye view of the terrain. More companies will latch on to this novelty exposure, and bored web surfers will be able to play a digital version of "car bingo" (Remember that game? A simple piece of cardboard that helped you keep track of when you saw a license plate from each of the 50 states... quite a far cry from today's drop down monitors and PSP's. I digress.) by spotting 50 different logos in hidden places across the planet. Indeed, we may be heading towards a patchwork quilt of logos, insignias, and other images that can be seen from satellite. Kind of neat, kind of scary.

In the end, it'll certainly bring new meaning to "combing the desert"...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scientific Research + PR = Healthier Lifestyles?

Everyday, Americans are bombarded with new scientific reports that pertain to the delicate issue of human health and safety. One day a researcher claims to have a cure for preventing breast cancer, the next day there's a study that announces the healthiest foods to eat, and another day we hear how to treat a case of the cold. The updates are seemingly endless, but boy do those scientists know how to get PR!

The news media gobble up these reports to announce to their concerned (though probably confused) audience, since people like to hear about ways to live longer. Frustratingly, however, many of these reports are either discredited later, or the ones that are legit often go unnoticed. For instance, some reports we hear suggest there may be links between cell phone usage and brain tumors, yet other reports find no correlation whatsoever; meanwhile, we ALL know the downsides of obesity, yet obesity rates in America are only just now showing signs of improvement...approximately 33% of Americans are obese, a rate that's held steady since 1999 and may be on a downward trend. Sometimes a big message needs a while and enough time to sink in.

So today I came across an article announcing that salt is the hidden killer in our food. Within the article, it claims, "the American medical association says cutting people's sodium intake in half could save 150,000 lives a year".

Well, now there's a number for you! 150,000 lives could be saved just by cutting salt? How come this number isn't dancing all over the place? Why not put that number in the headline? Why isn't there any uproar about demanding that restaurants and food manufacturers cut salt immediately?

Quite simply, the problem of salt intake is a backseat issue in most Americans' minds. "Salt is just salt... it can't be that harmful," you might say. Or, "I don't care about my salt levels, I'd rather eat tasty food."

Meanwhile, a gunshot kills a pro football player and the entire nation is grieving. Sad, yes, absolutely, but it just goes to show that there's not much in the way of dramatic PR when it comes to a person dying because of heart disease from too much salt intake. "Celebrity Overdoses on Salt During Course of Lifetime, Dies" is not a headline you're likely to see.

So, let me make the segue into marketing here... if you're a marketer, and the story you tell about your product doesn't make the big headlines, what can you do?

Well, welcome to the challenge of marketing. Ultimately if you're like most marketers with a limited budget or without a "big bang" product or service, you've got to use lots of smaller messages and spread the word in more of a grassroots fashion. People will catch on, slowly but surely.

It's kind of like sprinkling your message around like a salt shaker, a few grains at a time. After a while, those grains start adding up and people will take notice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How to Improve Online Advertising

According to this article in vnunet.com of the UK, online advertising has not taken hold of online shoppers as more and more people favor reviews written by customers to help them shape their decisions. This probably surprises nobody in the marketing world since online advertising is generally used to help build a brand and awareness by reaching an appropriate audience across multiple sites. So while persuading people to buy one's product via online advertising is important, it's usually more important, traditionally, for online advertising to prime customers over time.

But perhaps we now need to look at online advertising in a new light. Perhaps this study shows that if companies do want people to react to their online ads, then the ads themselves need to be updated to modern standards. What I'm getting at here is-- why not promote your customer reviews in your online ads?

For example... Looking to advertise your latest solar powered toaster?

Well, try building an ad that automatically uploads the latest customer reviews on this magnificent product into the content of the ad. Not only would this encourage people to click on the ad and find out more about the product (since the reviews are what people want to see in the first place), but it would also encourage customers to write up reviews since their message would be displayed in ads across the internet... call it 15 minutes of internet fame. Of course you would have to monitor the comments for appropriateness and regulate the reviewers by only allowing registered shoppers to post a review to avoid spam and other anonymous rants, but it's a small price to pay to enable your biggest fans to support your product.

Call it Online Advertising 2.0 or whatever you fancy, but the fact is that delivering the right message-- in this case customer reviews-- to prospective customers will become more important to generate sales via online ads in the future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"What's a Roll Fold?" and How You Can Succeed in Search Engines

This morning I read an article in DMNews that referred to a direct mail piece called a "roll fold". I didn't know what this referred to, so, as you might guess, I did a quick Google search for the phrase. The first result that Google listed directed me to International Paper's "Paper Glossary" index, where the page presented me with precise and helpful information, thus answering my question effectively.

I bring this up to you because there is a HUGE opportunity for industrial, scientific, and high-tech companies out there, or really any organization in any market with lots of jargon, complex terms, or unfamiliar phrasings. Any organization that can create a comprehensive glossary online has enormous potential to be listed first in a wide variety of search queries, as International Paper was in this particular one. That's because search engines love accurate and informative content (proof positive being Wikipedia's high rankings in countless searches). It's one of the pillars of search engine optimization (SEO).

The benefit to you is that once a visitor to your site's glossary page gets the information s/he is looking for, it is highly likely that this person will then either explore your site a little more, or at the very least appreciate the authoritative position you have in the industry and associate your company as a leader in your field. To wit:

Knowledge = Expert

Expert = Leader in your field.

Producing a sharp, meaningful glossary is relatively simple marketing project to undertake and the rewards might make you roll in some newfound cash.

By the way, a roll fold is: "A type of fold where the piece is folded inward at one end and then folded inward again one or more times. It is as if you are rolling the piece up."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Marketing Lessons from a Tree Trimmer


In the wooded lot around our agency's building, we have a handful of dead trees that could cause trouble should they come crashing down. Correction, we *had* a handful of dead trees on our property.

Over the past two days a local tree trimming company has been chopping away the dead wood to remove it from the grounds. All the while, I figured there must be some kind of marketing lessons in what they're doing. Well, fear not, I found some lessons, and now I'm sharing them with you! Enjoy...
  • It's a very straightforward process: find a dead tree, cut it down, chop it up, haul it away. So why isn't this a commodity industry? Because there's a certain art to doing it right. Just like any service provider, your style will go a long way in showing how good you are. Do you clean up neatly after you're done cutting? Do you make your best effort to leave the property just as you found it? Do you perform preventative maintenance as needed? These are the types of actions that separate a good tree trimmer from just a hack. (Pun intended!)

  • What's the best way to get new business? Referrals, most definitely. But after time these may dry up like termite-infested wood. So what's a tree trimmer to do? For one, take a page from HVAC contractors and offer yearly service plans. This way, you're locking in customers year after year and taking care of potential problems that landowners might not even see. Or use good ole' fashioned door hangers for any house you drive by where you see problem trees in a landowner's yard. Be proactive.

  • Quantify your business's impact, much like McDonald's counts how many billions of people have been served. Taking tree branches and turning them into mulch? Calculate how many tons of beneficial mulch you make per year. Helping to save houses from potential disasters? Talk about how many houses you've saved. Quantifiable numbers can help prove your value and show how much experience you have.

So while you may (or may not) be involved in the tree trimming business, it's easy to see how the marketing lessons from a tree trimmer can be applied to any marketing situation. It's tree-mendous. (Sorry, just had to say it.)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Peddler on the Reef

Ok, so perhaps the title of this post was a real stretch of a reference to "Fiddler on the Roof" but I would like to talk about a prospective form of advertising that really would get the most out of Sunrise and Sunset: Reef Advertising. It's a concept that may be Florida's answer to offsetting the cost to build new artificial reefs off the state's coastline.

The idea:
St. Lucie County is looking to dump concrete railroad ties, culvert pipes, and other fodder into the ocean, creating artificial reefs for fish to hide in and plants to cling to, and also avoiding having to dump this material into landfills. The burgeoning colony of aquatic life would help improve the underwater environment and perhaps boost the local economy as a rush of more fishing and scuba diving would inevitably follow.

The problem:
For each of the 23 planned artificial reefs to be created, it will cost approximately $20,000 to have the construction material collected and dumped, a cost that the county can't afford.

The solution:
Have local companies pay $20,000 to sponsor the creation of a new reef. This would allow companies to have their names listed on ocean charts marking coral reefs, and then subsequently show off their investment to potential clients.

The analysis:
Sounds like a whale of an idea.

Advertising in the ocean? I say it's time to take the plunge. Where else can people legitimately benefit on a personal level from a company's advertising... from sunrise to sunset?

Hot Tips for Improving Your Spam!

Copywriting for spam e-mails can be a tough gig. Trying to generate sales by writing about the same 3 or 4 topics can be a challenge, so you really have to work hard on perfecting your skills in order to generously inform people of the next hot stock tip, alert people to their substantial lottery winnings halfway across the world, or show your concern by offering suggestions on how to increase the size of your male audience's, ummm, organs. It ain't easy, but someone's gotta do it.

If you're looking to sharpen your spam-writing/marketing skills (and who isn't?), click here for some helpful tips from The Columbus Dispatch on how to perfect that all-important e-mail sales tool.

And if you know of anybody selling Viagra on the cheap, please don't send them my way.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ohaus.com: A Well-Balanced, Engaging Site

It isn't often that I come across a B2B site that is successfully designed to look like an engaging B2C site. But ohaus.com is one of those rare exceptions.

Ohaus Corp. produces balances and scales for a wide array of industries from Laboratory to Jewelry to Education and more. How do I know this? It is clearly displayed in the top navigation bar, thus quickly aiding somebody who is looking for products that serve his/her field. All too often, sadly, companies think that they should put up their web site and make it difficult for visitors to figure out how the products shown relate to them. This site avoids that unfortunate trap.

Additionally the site offers multiple ways to find just the product you're looking for, which increases the chance that you'll get what you want... quickly. That makes the site a great sales tool, rather than just an electronic brochure like sites were designed to be 10 years ago. Many B2B companies still fail to grasp this concept and could very well be leaving money on the table.

Lastly, the overall graphic design of the site is sharp, with bright, clean photos, eye-catching buttons, and an easy navigation. Much better than most dull, outdated, unengaging B2B sites. This is quite refreshing.

I only found two negatives. The first is that the Press Release section is three years out of date, meaning that either the company has abandoned this effective marketing tool or they have forgotten to update this section. Secondly, the home page (both the main home page and the USA home page) has ZERO text on it. By not updating the press release section and by leaving the home page text-less, they may be hurting their search engine results, while also seeming distant to visitors who would be looking for better quality in these areas.

All in all, this site is a great example of breaking the mold of typical B2B sites and becoming a more engaging B2C-type marketing tool. This site has come a long 'weigh' in the B2B realm.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Direct Mail Success Story

Lately in my moderately-sized townhouse, my wife and I have been on a kick to "get ridda stuff". Most Americans will concur that we as a society accumulate "stuff" at a rapid pace, often for no particular reason. And most people will also concur that every now and then, stuff just needs to go.

But go where?

I prefer not to just get a big trash bag and haul it off to the dumpster. That, to me, is incredibly wasteful and a drain on our precious resources.

I also prefer not to try to sell this stuff on ebay, because, let's face it, where's the glory in photographing the item, writing copy, waiting for the auction to finish, and shipping out an old telephone for a profit of $3.74? Thanks, but I'll pass.

And driving out to Goodwill and bestowing my stuff on them isn't always convenient to me since the closest one is a 15 minute drive and has hours that conflict with my work schedule.

So just when I lost all hope and was about to leave my stuff to sit and gather dust for another year, yesterday I got a bright yellow post card in the mail from the Purple Heart Pickup organization. Sure enough, the card clearly explains that I can simply bag up my used belongings that meet their criteria, leave it in front of my house on the specified date, keep a receipt of the donation for my tax records, and bam, I'm done! Great service... veterans benefit from the donation, I get a bit of money back from a tax deduction, and my closets have more open space available. I'm glad they sent me the post card.

This is a prime example of how direct mail can be an effective marketing tactic... if you have the right timing, announce the right message, and reach the right people.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Elevate Your Advertising

Previously in this blogging arena, we talked about parking stripe advertising on the ground. Now, here's something that might elevate your advertising to new heights: The Wall Street Journal Office Media Network, or OMN.

What is OMN? It's a network that delivers Wall Street Journal content and ads on flat-panel LCD screens to office buildings. And these screens can be placed to be seen in the ground floor of an office building's lobby, or scaling the floors in elevators.

OMN was rolled out in the past few months, and replicates the well-established Captivate Network by Gannett Co. OMN is targeted more for business coverage, while Captivate covers news and entertainment. "Captivate" being the key word here since your audience is captive and your ad is promiment once you sign on. That's a breath of fresh air for someone who feels s/he needs to shout louder over the other ads that a person sees at any given moment during the day.

Just like stumbling upon a parking stripe ad, catching people on their way to work who are watching the news in the elevator could be a fresh new way of reaching future customers. Intriguing, if perhaps controversial, ways to advertise from the ground up...

Park Your Ad Here

Thanks to Anita for spotting this article on a new under-the-radar (and tires) marketing vehicle: Parking Stripe Advertising.

The name of the game in advertising is breaking through the clutter. It appears that advertisers have now gone to seemingly the last bastion of unblemished space... the humble parking lot pavement of your local strip mall.

The idea here is to place a cleverly relevant ad on the ground to catch the eyes of passers-by as they walk to the store. I suppose this is the suburban version of Times Sqare... without all the glitz, glamour, and gaudy advertising rates. At about $1 per stripe per day (minimum of 250 stripes in one location, BTW), as is quoted in the aforementioned article link, you can have your own worm-level ad, and not have to compete with any other ad in the vicinity.

'Tis a unique way of diversifying your ad spend... from the ground up.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Break-Through Car, Old-Fashioned Web Site


Design News featured the Tango commuter vehicle on its front cover of the October 8, 2007 issue. Cool car, from an environmentally-sound and everyday-practical standpoint, though the article barely touches on this new automobile. So to get more info, I scooted over to Commuter Cars' web site to learn more about this quirky and mysterious car and its manufacturer.

Well, the web site is very informative and quite well written. The site reveals many great benefits of the car, such as the ability to park in tiny spaces (see photo), the acceleration of a motorcylce, and safety of a sedan. Sadly however, the design of the site is reminiscent of a circa-1995 style and clearly lacks any kind of brand and ultimately reflects the company's lack of funding available to get a legitimate web site that could really help sell this car.

So this situation poses an interesting question for marketers: can an eye-catching concept car earn a large enough customer base without having the proper web site or marketing materials? Or is an expensive item such as this car ($18,000-$108,000 according to the web site) only sellable with a comparably engaging web site or marketing materials?
This could be a great case study for what actually drives sales...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Marketing Yourself Through Change

The philosophy behind selling one's self isn't as selfish as it may sound at first. But in any industry where you're dealing with people, and so few do not, the first gatekeeper to success is you making an impression. Confidence in your products and services, and your experience with both, is the most important aspect of successful business relationships. It's the tie that binds. Forget the fancy suit and the expensive wheels, the enthusiasm behind what you do should express "vocation" rather than "day job". If you truly believe that what you offer has value, others will, as well.

Not to drive this point home too hard because it seems mostly common sense, but the daily grind of a challenging company stretch takes its toll gradually. And once the motivational posters lining the walls have blended into the wall, before we know it, we're pushing away our marketing activities as faith-based initiatives that hold no real return on time or monetary investment and tunnel vision sets in. Inevitably, forthcoming vacations become our long-distance main focus, and too often, they only make things worse as we return not invigorated, but even more spiritually depleted than before. And when we allow ourselves to succumb to daily stresses simply because they've become all too familiar, our health, both mental and physical, suffers as well.

And with it, our ability to influence.

So as a personal public service announcement, it's important to refocus on the heart of your role in your company and remind yourself that there's a purpose behind your efforts besides meeting a bottom line. Setting new goals, both in and out of the office, and reexamining the way others see your company may refresh the corporate vision not only of yourself, but of those around you. Sometimes, if it ain't broke, go ahead and break it to invigorate the works. Sure, change can be scary, but so can stagnation – only it's harder to see. And if we lose our sense of who we are in what we do, our perspective as an integral part of a larger picture becomes lost as well. And when we stop recognizing our purpose in the marketplace, little by little we're asking others to do the same.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Got Melty?

Marketers tend to be pretty keen on the latest trends in linguistics. For example, milk marketers introduced "Got Milk?" after tapping into this popular phrasing that had been used by people from all over.

Or, as I discussed here on BizPizzazz a few days ago, QVC has started to market itself as just "Q" or perhaps "the Q". Popular venacular has a funny way of driving our malleable English language. Even Federal Express changed its name in ads because commonfolk referred to them as FedEx.

But it gets interesting when multiple companies try to position themselves as hip, using the latest pop culture terminology. Case in point: "melty." (Editor's note: from here on out I will be italicizing the word melty, or any derivative thereof, because the italics just make it look even melllllllllltier.)

Before this year, I don't know that I've ever observed the word melty being used in an advertisement, but I would hear it on occasion when with friends or overhearing others talking about their food. "I love when ice cream gets all melty and gooey," might be one usage.

But lately, melty is everywhere. Wawa, the Philadelphia-area king of convenience stores, has used the word melty in its radio commercials ad nauseum to promote its new ciabatta sandwiches. And Oscar Mayer, of hot dog and deli meat fame, is using melty in its ads and on its web site to promote its Deli Creations. And I know that I've heard another company use the word melty in a TV commercial but I just can't recall who it was... Quizno's perhaps? (Sorry, it just melted out of my mind.) (Editor's note: This article from The Onion cleared my memory and reminded me I heard melty in a Taco Bell commercial. I was close.)

So what's the lesson for marketers, then? If you're going to try to capitalize on a trendy word, be it melty, felty, welty, or whatever, go out and own that word! Don't just be a copycat and use it because everybody else is using it. Otherwise your message will just melt into the background...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

New Technology Update: Pixel Rollers

Okay, it took me a while to figure out how this works, but I think I get it now. According to the web site of the developers known as Random International: "PixelRoller is a paint roller that paints pixels, designed as a rapid response printing tool specifically to print digital information such as imagery or text onto a great range of surfaces. The content is applied in continuous strokes by the user. PixelRoller can be seen as a handheld “printer”, based around the ergonomics of a paintroller, that lets you create the images by your own hand."

The video almost looks like a hoax, but after a few viewings you can see that the technology actually works, with continuous strokes being very operative terms here. Will larger, more useful applications than affixing the visage of Buddy Holly to a wall follow? It just might. Sign and billboard painting is still a growing industry, and with computer technology backing into every other visual medium, I reckon the folks at Random International could be onto something.

And now some videos for your perusal...



David Beckham Update: Go Back to the Well, or Leave Well Enough Alone?


After an unprecedented amount of speculation and media fanfare, David Beckham pulled on his boots and L.A. Galaxy soccer jersey and hit the field with style. A trademark free kick and a few golden assists later, validation descended like a warm glow around the Galaxy's president and general manager Alexi Lalas. Never before has anyone associated with the MLS brand ever looked so damned savvy.

And now, with European games being broadcast on Sirius Satellite Radio, deals are being struck up far and wide that could even make the sport bigger in America. With ideas flowing with such impetus, it's not surprising that a few might squeak through that could undo all the hard work. For instance, John Sheiman, producer of "The Football Show" on Sirius said MLS should give Golden Goose Becks a gold jersey and have him play for both teams, taking only free kicks and corner kicks. Then, the jersey could be auctioned off after every game and Beckham could move from city to city "without fear of injury".

Smart marketing, or shameless gimmick that could destroy the integrity of the sport? I know what I think.

Friday, October 5, 2007

QVC Conquering the Q?

So QVC, the 21-year-old direct response retail company, is in the act of laying claim to the letter "Q" by launching its "iQdoU?" campaign, as reported by DMNews. The company's goal is, indeed, "to own the letter 'q,'" according to Jeff Charney, the chief marketing officer at QVC.

Sounds like a smart endeavor if it works, if you ask me. For example, Apple has had success by laying claim to the letter "i," with iPhone, iPod, and other "iTems." Overstock went for the "O" with its seemingly short-lived "It's all about the O" campaign, and its logo of a giant, ubiquitous O in its marketing materials. There are undoubtedly other similar claims to letters, numbers, or other frequently used symbols or words, depending on how deep you care to go.

Interestingly, in addition to owning the letter Q, QVC is also going after the other popular trend of verb-ing your company's name, by coining the phrase "I Q, do you?". Consider other instances of companies verb-ing their names:
  • "You should Google your last name to find out who's talking smack about you."
  • "I'll be right there, I just have to Xerox my buttocks for the office bulletin board."
  • "I need to Windex my computer screen because I just sneezed all over it."

Ultimately, if QVC succeeds in getting its "Q" out into the common vernacular, both as a letter and a verb, it will be quite an aqqomplishment, err, accomplishment since it will take time and persistence to change people's speaking habits. Owning a letter or verb-ing your company name can be a powerful step in building your brand recognition.

Now please pardon me while I chow down on some alphabet soup for lunch...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Presidential Race '08: Who Ya Got?

Stumped by which presidential candidate to vote for?

Speakout.com offers a handy quiz for you to fill out to give you an idea of which voting bloc you fall into.

It gave me a good reading on where I stand, though it didn't accurately predict who I am leaning towards electing... Homer Simpson.

(Kidding!)

(Or am I?)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Simple Web Site Element Makes for Smart Marketing

Just came across the web site for Neu Dynamics Corporation, an industrial company that does encapsulation and insert molding, and found this helpful list of tips that they produced and decided to share with others.

Though the tips mean little to me, as an outsider of the industry, people who work with molds and dies may find them to be smart and useful. By posting these tips, Neu Dynamics is helping spread valuable information, while also showing they know what they're doing. Well done.

Unfortunately, not a lot of companies offer this kind of helpful information on their web sites, but instead opt to talking strictly about themselves. It can be a challenge to open up your vault of knowledge and share it with the world, but in today's "Information Age," if you don't, somebody else will.

What information can you provide to your prospects and clients? And why haven't you done so already?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When Ugly Can Be Good

In case you missed it, the Philadelphia Eagles (and perhaps more notably, their cheerleaders, as pictured at right) this past weekend (on September 23, 2007) took a dip into the past and resurrected the uniforms from the club's opening season in 1933. By many accounts, the powder blue and yellow uniforms were considered ugly.

But sometimes the ugly duckling does indeed mature into a beautiful swan. It just depends on how you look at it.

Many commentators absolutely panned the uniforms, Keith Olbermann in particular, but you know what's funny? Being at the game, I noticed a swarm of kids and a large contingency of adults were already proudly sporting these throwback uniforms, hats, t-shirts, and other memorabilia. Sometimes ugly sells.

What do you think-- are these throwback Eagles uniforms hideous? And if people are buying them does it matter? And if the Eagles blowout the Lions, should they subsequently sport their lightning-rod laundry again, out of superstition?

Time's yours!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Viral Marketing at Its Best

An uplifting story has been running rampant on the internet and in the media. It involves bullies, pink shirts, and e-mail. The rest is history.

Everyday people, supporting a great cause, using an efficient medium can spread a message a long way in short time.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Has "Awareness" Become Big Business?

Wristbands, magnetic ribbons, metal stars – we've all seen them, and some of us have probably even purchased one or more of them. Naturally, the phenomenon starts with only a few sightings and quickly escalates into a ubiquitous trend that may or may not hold the same meaning as when it first began.

In the era of viral marketing, I'm reminded that visibility is the at the core of its strength, and online isn't the only way to get it done. Last year, a man was arrested for positioning a few Lite-brite™ figures around the city of Boston after his installations caused a civil stir of terror proportions. I'm not sure how it hurt or helped awareness of his personal cause, but for other causes deemed more socially appropriate such as the support of our troops or disease awareness, the results are quite clear – if a little fuzzy about how that awareness translates into "support" or "research and/or prevention". But if someone is making a tidy profit on these things, and clearly someone is, is there another more message-oriented cost at the other side of the equation?

Curious about what the metal stars I was seeing hung up on houses everywhere actually meant (if they meant anything at all), I did a little research. Apparently, according to who you ask and where you derive your information, they originated from the Amish barn makers who used them to signify edifices of their manufacture – or a copyright of sorts. Then, during WWII, gold and silver versions were erected in plain sight to signify a family member either currently serving or lost in service to the military respectively. Today, the color signifiers have changed from gold and silver to blue and a gold, with brown added to represent a war veteran. However, it doesn't stop there. Now referred to in some camps as "Amish Barn Stars", some folks simply like the looks of them and have taken to buying them for decoration. In fact, websites such as this one offer them in so many sizes and colors as to boggle the mind, with prices ranging from $12.95 to $139.95.

Good business, unfortunate product hysteria of what seemed a tasteful and traditional tribute, or something else entirely? I'm not really sure. What say you?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wal-Mart Shops for a New Look

After Wal-Mart's extended run of drowsy revenue results, the company's marketing team has decided to embark on a new marketing campaign, entitled, "Save Money. Live Better." This effectively ends the 19-year run of "Always Low Prices."

The campaign is based upon a recent report that Wal-Mart supposedly saves the average household a sum of $2,330 each year, thus allowing families to take that money saved and improve their lives in another way.

While I, personally, think it's a nice marketing slogan--because it's straightforward and because of its economy of words--I tend to agree with Rob Frankel, who is quoted in the article linked above. If Wal-Mart keeps focusing on price and price only, they shouldn't expect big changes in customers' attitudes towards their company.

From personal experience to stories I hear from friends to the jokes that comedians repeatedly tell, Wal-Mart stores are a mess, selling mostly cheaply made products, with average customer service at best. Now this perception may be completely wrong, but it is still a widespread percpetion... one that is strong enough to keep people from going to the stores, hence declining sales. A new slogan, particularly one that essentially conveys the same message as before, won't change any of that. Improve on the customers' experience in the store, like Target has done as Wal-Mart's competitor or like Wegman's has done for supermarket shoppers, and then Wal-Mart will see improvement. Until then, I'll gladly choose to "Spend MORE. Live BETTER than Better."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Your Guide on How to Reject Telemarketers


A while back in this space, I discussed the frustration of dealing with unruly telemarketers during the work day, most of whom tend to be stockbrokers trawling for new clients.

Since then, I've come across a couple of great ways to handle them:
  • Snopes.com looks into a report (which is incorrectly credited to being produced by Andy Rooney) that lists some ideas on how to fluster the telemarketers and credit card mailers of the world. Even though they discredit the tips, I found them to be funny, creative and still may be worth using, if for no other reason than to just try something silly for silly's sake.

  • Got someone bugging you for your phone number? Whether it's a telemarketer begging for an associate's cell phone number, or a person you met at a bar that you just want to shake off, or, well, I'll leave other scenarios up to your imagination, send them to the Rejection Hotline!

  • Or, simply do a Google search like this one and you'll find no shortage of suggestions on how to handle unwanted callers. (Shared knowledge is great, isn't it!)

Good luck and may all your incoming calls be productive ones!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"Green Marketing 2.0" Analysis

Joel Makower discusses his take on the re-birth of green marketing, after the first round essentially failed in the early-90s. His arguement states that there was a small surge in green marketing but the products that were being marketed as "green" were busts.

On the other hand, today's green products are better and more reliable, much to the delight of environmentalists the world over. Subsequently, the marketing of these products has taken on a new growth explosion. Companies are promoting green products, and consumers are now buying them and talking about them... a great formula for success.

But this now leaves us with the question of-- "What will Green Marketing 3.0 look like?"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Art of Marketing the Cutting Room Floor

Just this morning I heard a radio commercial promoting the release of a DVD on a popular TV show. One of the selling points was that the DVD included 50 deleted scenes that were not shown on TV before.

Silly question: Why would I want to buy a DVD because it features scenes that weren't good enough for the show?

To me, that's like watching a 20 minute clip of long pop-flies to center field that were just short of a home run. Or going to a restaurant and the waiter brings you the scraps of food that fell on the floor. Or buying a box of pencils where all the erasers fell off.

I think you get the idea.

Stay tuned for our next blog post: "The Best of the Blog Posts that Didn't Make It to BizPizzazz"...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion!

Many thanks go out to the readers of this blog, and we hope you enjoy reading our marketing rants, tips, and updates. But perhaps you didn't know that we also offer even more marketing advice via e-mail and two good ole' fashioned newsletters! And all for free!

Please click here to sign up for our e-jottings e-newsletter, which is sent every three weeks. Or you can sign up in the e-mail box on the homepage of SMS, Inc. or NewBizBuilders.

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It's simple, free, and quick to sign up. Plus, there's no obligation whatsoever by joining our list... *correction*...the only obligation is that you read our articles devoutly!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sports Marketing and P.R.: When Less May Be More

As you may have read in the previous post by Scott on this here blog we call "BizPizzazz," you would have heard about the amazing stir that David Beckham has kicked up since arriving on Ellis Island (or flying into LAX, whatever the case may have been). Indeed, his flair for football and celebrity status has caught the attention of millions of fans the world over. Good P.R.!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the public relations spectrum, you may have seen just a few instances of news featuring athletes misbehaving. For example:

Mike Vick: his future is now dogged by, well, you can probably surmise by now...

Latrell Sprewell: this NBA star has had numerous run-ins in the past, including his choking-the-coach adventure, but now a federal marshal has seized his $1.5 million yacht after he defaulted on his mortgage.

Adam "Pacman" Jones: he had a bit too much fun in Las Vegas, among other incidents.

Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, et al: juiced or legit?

Rick Tocchet: I bet you probably know what he did by now.

And so on and so forth. And let's not even get started on referees.
Bad P.R.!

So what are sports P.R. pros and marketing moguls to do with all of this negative news? P.R. folks can only apologize and downplay these messy events so often and marketers certainly can't sell and promote these unseemly players. Trying to hold these hot potatoes (read: out of control athletes) makes for a tough job.

Of course, sports marketers can always promote the athletes who are genuinely good players and good guys (Cal Ripken and Michael Jordan come to mind), and that of course is easy to do. And public relations reps can prep athletes when they're young and just entering stardom, and certainly they do indeed do that in various ways to try and prevent future problems from arising.

But when bad news does arise, the best thing anybody can do might just be to do nothing. Because as long as there are fans that are willing to shell out big bucks to watch sports, players will either be able to get away with less than morally-ideal behavior, or the ones that break the law will be swept under the rug and life goes on.

When all else fails, no P.R. might just be the best P.R.

Beckham Update: Soccer Star Carries League on Capable Back

Anyone initiated into the world of soccer would say it was written in the stars that David Beckham, also known around the globe as "Goldenballs", would make a Hollywood scriptworthy start to his MLS career. And by all accounts, they would have been right. Known for his miraculous feats of soccer skill under the most daunting of pressure, Becks has now executed a clinically perfect free kick and created three other glorious goals in only his first two LA Galaxy starts. His team is happy, the fans are happy, and most of all, the MLS is happy. Or rather, deeply, deeply grateful.

One need not look any further than last Saturday's game against New York's Red Bulls that finished 5-4 in favor of the energy drink home side. With over 66,000 in attendance – unheard of for an MLS game – Beckham put the Galaxy ahead 2-1 before the 9th minute was up. The rest of the game would see chance after chance after chance, with Beckham in the center of most of the thrilling action. One could say the bar has truly been set for the league, and it wouldn't be a stretch for any cognescenti or casual observer to say that the man from England by way of Spain was solely responsible. His very presence on the field (thanks in large part to his sex symbol status), coupled with the atmosphere generated by the hysteria, created a perfect storm of arousing athleticism that will not soon be forgotten. There was truly something for everyone, which is the American way in the business of entertainment, and for the movers and shakers of Major League Soccer, that is very good news indeed.

I saw the game and it was one of the most entertaining competitions I have ever seen. I marveled at the skill on display, and the humility of the man who would be king. In fact, I had to laugh. It was too perfect. The result mattered little outside of the spectacle, and the action itself was far from what American audiences have come to expect from the "little league that could". That said, is there now too much expectation on the league to deliver so spectacularly week in and week out? I don't know. But if I had any money invested in even the meekest of MLS franchises, I would be treating myself to a steak this weekend.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Why Turning People Away Can Be a Bad Marketing Decision

Recently, I spent the weekend at the Jersey Shore for a little getaway. One afternoon was particularly rainy and my wife and I were hungry, so we took a stroll through the drizzle to a nice-looking local restaurant we had never been to before.

We sat down around 2:15 and finished about 3:30. The restaurant, however, stopped allowing diners in at 3, "to prep for dinner." At 3, the owner and all the waitresses gathered around a table by the front door, and, in plain sight mind you, began counting out their take for the day. Meanwhile, a few small groups trudged in from the rain for a bite to eat and the owner turned them all away, even though we and a couple of other groups were still there.

Now, I know very little about operating a restaurant, but it just seemed to me that on a dreary Sunday afternoon, turning away potential customers seemed like a poor business and marketing decision. Chances are that the restaurant would be closed on Monday, and chances are that Sunday night dinner wouldn't be a busy time either, judging by the heavy flow of traffic away from Shore points later that day.

So my point here is that if your restaurant is up and running and employees are already there, why not let 'em in to eat? Like I said before, I don't know a whole lot about running a restaurant, but it just seems to me that if people are willing to give you money in exchange for your goods and/or services, and if you already have everything in place, you should do your best to suit them-- particularly if your evening and the next day would likely be slow.

From a marketing standpoint, I'd have a hard time going back there knowing that they'd prefer to count their money in front of customers while also kicking other potential customers back out into the rain. The food was tasty, but this scene left a sour taste in my mouth.

Have you ever been a part of a situation like this? And what are your thoughts on the matter? Do tell!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

True Bargain: A Bottle of Water at 20 Bucks a Pop

This intriguing interview from Fundraising Success Magazine discusses the work of a non-profit agency known simply as "Charity:". (The colon is part of their name for those dedicated proofreaders out there.)

In a nutshell, this organization sells consumers a bottle of spring water for $20. Then 100% of the donation goes to building freshwater wells for communities that need them. It's really that simple.

The connection that this organization makes between selling a consumer product and raising money for an important cause is keenly done. In fact the article even gives two examples of people saying they want to raise money for building wells, so ordinary individuals raised money by selling these to friends and customers.

Here's a free idea for your business: Going to a trade show? Stockpile some of these bottles of water and sell them at your booth. Your visitors will latch on to this idea and undoubtedly buy all of your bottles, you'll be raising money for charity, AND you'll create a nice buzz for your booth, all while staying well within your marketing budget. Everybody wins.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Quick Marketing Tool: Desk Calendars

At the beginning of the year, I got a little weekly desk calendar from a local bank. It's very basic and functional and is just the right size to fit on my desk. I look at it every workday, and write copious notes in it to keep my life in order.

Yet I couldn't help but notice that nowhere on any of the calendar's pages is any kind of reminder as to what bank gave the calendar to me. Other than the days/dates and small boxes for the previous/current/next month, and a weekly quote (which is a nice touch), the pages are very plain. No company logo, slogan, tip, watermark or anything on the pages, and simply a logo on the front cover. While I'm not encouraging companies to shove marketing messages down people's throats, this is a calendar that I look at very frequently and could easily forget which bank I got it from... which leads me to think it's almost a totally wasted marketing budget spent!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

When Misspelling (or, Perhaps, "Mispelling") is Okay

Today I passed by a fruit stand on the side of the road. The sign on the road said, "Watermellons." Ok, minor spelling error, but all in all it probably won't hurt business.

But if that same little stand were to have a web site, and spelled watermelons with two l's within the text on their site or in their meta tags, from a search engine optimization (SEO)standpoint, they'd probably be one of the top listings for that category if they had an otherwise good site. Think about how many people must do a search for "watermellons" every summer, and if you're the first one on that search engine results page, you might have a nice little business going there.

So, in effect, a misspelling of a word on the internet may not actually be the wurst thing in the wurld.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Monstrous Marketing

In the past few weeks a new viral campaign has infected the interweb and its low cost concept is paying huge dividends. According to a trailer found on a few cryptic websites, Paramount Pictures is releasing a film in January of 2008 produced by TV's "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams, shot in digital video, set in New York City, involving something very big that finds it amusing to throw the head of the Statue of Liberty at crowds of terrified New Yorkers.

Of course, it's what we don't know and the manner in which we've been teased that has us hooked. But not all of the ensuing publicity may have been the intentions of the studio. The trailer was first scene as a preview to the Transformers movie and a few "viral carriers", equipped with camcorders, recorded the teaser and leaked it onto Youtube.com. The result is a buzz that took on a life of its own. Names began to sprout for the project, theories involving the TV series started to develop, and all were denied by Abrams himself. Also, the nature of the hand-held videography gave the footage the appearance of an actual, self-made youtube offering. Did the creators behind the mysterious film intend for that to happen? I can't say, but according to reports, they have asked that the links be removed – although obviously that hasn't happened.

Regardless of the loose ends and plethora of unanswered questions, a $30 million film (modest by today's blockbuster standards, it must be said) with no name and no real synopsis outside of some monstrous tragedy has become one of the most anticipated films of next year. All for the price of some clever animation, a few feet of videotape and a URL. My only hope, considering the source, is that whatever molested Lady Liberty turns out to be more than a puff of innocuous, black smoke.

Here's the video for your perusal:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Search Marketing in Rush Hour Traffic

The impact of Google's search marketing methods is by now a world-renowned phenomenon, as Seth Godin points out. People will now actively seek out marketing messages via search engine queries, as opposed to having marketing message forced upon millions of people simultaneously through mass marketing (though this tactic can work as well, but most businesses don't have the money to support this type of program). It's one person seeking one thing at one time, and that marketer needs to be there in order to make the sale.

To put it into a real life perspective, you have to be the guy selling water bottles (or flowers, or--if you're from Philly-- soft pretzels) right when a car pulls up at a traffic light or during rush hour. If I'm thirsty and sitting in rush hour traffic, I just might buy a cold bottle of water if it doesn't require me to get out of my car and costs a reasonable price. That's one-to-one marketing at its simplest!

So, if your prospects are riding the (uh oh, please prepare for terrible metaphorical comparison) "information superhighway", is your company right there on the corner when they stop at a light and look your way? Your site needs to contain the right keywords and have strong SEO tactics to rise up high in the search rankings, and/or you need to have relevant, eye-catching, enticing ads if you do a pay-per-click program. That's the name of the game in one-to-one marketing online.

So what's the lesson here?

Simply, be there or be roadkill.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Simpsons, Simpsons Everywhere

In a recent post, I mentioned how a small town in Vermont has been declared the hometown of Springfield, the fictional hometown of "The Simpsons", and subsequently had done a keen job of creating a marketing buzz to potentially help attract tourists.

Well, "The Simpsons" are now virtually everywhere, seemingly with the goal to take the country by storm. For example:
  • Dozens of 7-11 convenience stores have temporarily turned into Kwik-E-Marts, the store that the Simpsons patronize (and ridicule) in the TV show.

  • At these Kwik-E-Marts, fictional products from the show are available including Buzz Cola and KrustyO's. According to a reliable source, at least one Kwik-E-Mart in L.A. had people waiting in line out the door just to get in and buy these items. And this being the age of the auction, 112 listings for KrustyO's are posted on ebay (as of the time of this writing) for people looking to make a small profit.

  • Simpsonizeme.com allows you to create a Simpson-ized version of yourself, or anybody that catches your fancy.

  • Simpsons X-Box anybody?

  • Four-foot statues of the Simpsons family are being spotted at movie theatres and elsewhere, encouraging people to take photos with them, and, apparently, try and steal them.

  • Bookstores are clogged with Simpsons books, while toy stores are hawking figurines of all kinds, though this merchandising tactic is nothing new.

  • And lastly, well, we'll let you figure out this brave bit of marketing (note: artistic nudity alert!)

Movie marketing has become an incredibly intense and competitive business and The Simpsons movie is probably on the forefront of some innovative tactics to come. I for one enjoy seeing marketers exerting their collective brainpower (yes, marketers do have some substantial brainpower, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary!) to develop new and fun ways to market their products. Many consumers, however, might think otherwise and consider marketing to be a scourge to the landscape and our daily lifestyles. Indeed, it's a fine line to straddle between promoting your product and peeving people off. Succeed, and you make dough. Fail, and.... d'oh.

Now go get marketing!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Brand it Like Beckham

By now, regardless if you like sports or haven't observed anything competitive since the First Annual Basket Weaving Finals at your local VFW, you've heard about a man named David Beckham. If you haven't, well now you have. And trust me, it's only going to happen again and again and again.

Arguably one of the biggest sports figures on the planet, if not the biggest, Beckham is a soccer (football, futbol, footy, etc.) star who has played for some of the most successful European teams and has made his share of World Cup moments. He's inspired films (Bend it Like Beckham), had a statue of his likeness erected in chocolate in Japan, and he even boasts a pop star wife who has taken a second career in reality TV (Victoria Beckham: Coming to America). According to millions of fans around the world, he's handsome, charming, unassuming, and just happens to be very close friends with Tom Cruise.

He may be the biggest brand in the history of the world.

Why do I say that? Well, last night I was watching the MLS (Major League Soccer, America's finally establishing and expanding answer to the big soccer leagues around the world) All-Stars play Celtic FC, a football club that boasts possibly the most supporters in the world and who once attracted over 92,000 fans to a single game. But when I tell you that the night was all about David Beckham and his migration to America to play for the Los Angeles MLS squad, I mean to say that the sport itself, sports itself, couldn't get a press ticket to shake the man's hand. There was fawning that would have embarrassed the King himself, Elvis Presley. And I haven't seen flirting between men like that since Bill Clinton did the rounds at the 1992 Democratic convention. It was, quite honestly, shameless. Even for American celebrity culture.

But does that make it a bad thing?

Not for American soccer. In fact, it's just the opposite. Beckham agreed to join the Los Angeles Galaxy for a widely reported $250 million (one dollar for each fan, no doubt), that with endorsements, will earn him up to $50 million per year. Within 48 hours of following the announcement of his contract, over 250,000 Galaxy jerseys were sold with his name on the back, including one to Los Angeles mayor himself, Antonio Villaraigosa. With so many American youths playing the sport, and millions more every year, U.S. soccer has finally found its branded saint to lead them to the promise land. What Tiger Woods did for golf will soon be considered, as the British like to put it, "quaint".

The British Invasion is upon us again, but this time it's one man. Hold on to something sturdy, and get ready to shout "Goal!"

Friday, July 13, 2007

Stockbrokers and Telemarketing: A Lethal Combination

Very frequently those of us that answer the phones here at SMS and NewBizBuilders will receive phone calls from stockbrokers trying to drum up new business. Essentially the conversation goes like this, with the names changed to protect the innocent:

Us: "Good morning SMS, may I help you?"

Them: (abruptly) "Can I speak to John?"

Us: "May I ask who's calling?"

Them: "Nate Hardbargain. I'm calling to talk about the proposal we're working on. He'll know what it's about."

Us: (knowing full well at this point that the call is oozing of b.s.) "I'm sorry he's not here, can I--"

*click*

To think that someone sits with a list of names and does this all day and actually-- at least in theory-- makes money is absolutely mind-boggling to me. These people defy all manners of phone courtesy and in my mind are not the type of people that I'd want handling my money. Being an aggressive money manager is one thing, but being a pushy son-of-a-gun is another. This isn't to say that all stockbrokers are whipper-snappers like these outlandish telemarketers are, but these callers certainly don't do anything to boost the field's reputation.

So I ask-- Is that really the best marketing tactic these guys can come up with? Why not just barge through the front door, stomp right into a person's office, and demand that s/he buy stocks based on his/her so-called expert recommendations? Of course nobody would do that in person, why would they think it would work on the phone? I really wonder who actually takes these aggressors up on these types of sales pitches...

*click*

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Shocking Soccer Support by Some Sassy SoB's

Talk about consumers driving the market, necessity being the mother of invention, and audacious viral marketing campaigns taking foot... you ain't seen nothing until you've seen the perfect storm of all three whipped up by the "Sons of Ben," or SoB's, if you will.

The Philadelphia-based organization are rabid fans of Major League Soccer and are so fanatical they've even attracted the attention of Sports Illustrated. And like all good fans, a large contingent can be seen loudly supporting their team at every away match. Well, they're all away matches. Why? 'Cause they don't actually, have a team in Philly.

Gotta give these guys credit. Jerry Seinfeld famously quipped that with the frequent team-changes that professional athletes make, when you get right down to it, fans are "mostly rooting for laundry." This phantom Philadelphia team doesn't even have laundry. Mostly just hot air, I suppose.

But hey, I'm on the side of the SoB's. Maybe a Philly-based MLS team would actually win some championships, unlike our other local squads...

But I digress.
The marketing lesson in this story? Create a groundswell by rounding up your biggest fans and let them spread the word for you. But it definitely helps if you have something to sell first.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Small Town Gains New Marketing Image

Recently, my colleague and pop-culture aficionado Scott wrote about the image changes that New Jersey might need to undertake now that the Sopranos have fired their last fictional bullets. Well, on a related note of combining pop-culture productions stories with "destination marketing", a town in Vermont has been dubbed the Simpsons' "official" home, ahead of the premiere of the Simpsons Movie, according to this Forbes article.

The town won it on a whim, having gotten their submission in to the online polling forum at the last minute. But the town couldn't be happier.

So this sleepy little town of just 9,300 has a new claim to fame, allowing it to become a tourist spot and destination of note for Simpsons' fans the world over. This was a well designed campaign by Fox to generate this generous publicity for a small town, and undoubtedly the town, in turn, is thrilled to receive it.

Never a "d'oh" moment in Springfield, Vermont... can your company say the same thing? May be time to make your business a "destination".

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Marketing Holidays

During yesterday's rainy Independence Day evening here in New Jersey, I caught a show on the Discovery Channel about fireworks and how much of a competition it has become for one city to out-do all others. The part of the show that I watched showed gi-normous fireworks celebrations in Las Vegas and Shanghai, albeit for different occasions (Vegas for New Year's, Shanghai for a big convention). Both displays were arranged by a company called Grucci, who are apparently one of the big dogs in this industry. And from the looks of things on HD TV, these fireworks displays were mightily impressive and must have been even more amazing sights in person.

Which is where marketing comes in. During the clip where the Las Vegas story unfolded, a spokesperson for the city came right out and said that Vegas wants to be the first place people think of when they think of New Year's celebrations and fireworks displays.

A.K.A.-- "unique selling proposition".

Undoubtedly, dozens, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of cities around the world have fireworks displays on New Year's Eve, but imagine what being the number one destination for fireworks on New Year's would mean to a city. Certainly a lot of media publicity and a boost in the almighty tourist pool, if nothing else, which ain't too shabby.

Maybe your company doesn't need fireworks to be the most well known in your industry, but what are you doing to be number 1?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Image is Everything: A Riff on Value and Your Company

Two seemingly unrelated news articles crossed my radar screen this morning. The first, from Businessweek, discusses how a company's public perception can affect the value of a company's stock, while the second, from Forbes, talks about how a restaurant critic's reputation might be destroyed if the public sees his face.

The lesson from the Businessweek article is that the more positive a company's perception is among private investors the stronger their stock price becomes. An example is that Johnson & Johnson trades at a higher price/earnings ratio than Pfizer, in large part because the former has a better reputation than the latter. Reputation is certainly not as tangible as revenue, profits, cash, and the like, but without a doubt, customers will ultimately gravitate towards a company they like better, all things being equal.

And what we get from the Forbes article is that the Philadelphia Inquirer's restaurant critic--who has a long-lasting reputation of giving honest, objective advice, but without anybody knowing who he is (which would taint the service and food he receives while dining out)--is in jeopardy of having his identity revealed due to a pending lawsuit. Video testimony has been recorded and if released to the public, it is argued that restauranteurs will know who he is and treat him differently to get a better review. The lesson here being that Craig LeBan, the critic in question, has a higher value of NOT being known than if he were a local celebrity, so he highly covets his privacy in order to continue to do his job well.

Essentially these are two opposite takes on the same issue: Identity absolutely affects your reputation, and, ultimately, how people value your products or services. Keep this nugget in mind with everything your company does, including:
  • Advertising-- do you present yourself as a company looking to make the world a little bit better or as a company trying to get "shock attention" ads looking for a quick buck?
  • Customer service-- do the people at your company answer the phone in a friendly manner, or is it more of an inconvenience when somebody calls?
  • Community recognition-- does your company actively help the local community or do you lurk in the shadows, not caring about how your business affects your neighbors?
  • Public relations-- do you actively try to prevent problems and maximize your company's reputation, or do you try to "spin" a negative aspect/event into a positive one after the harm's done?

Face the facts folks-- your company's "face" affects the bottom line...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Goodwill Does Good

If you live or work in or around Philadelphia (or Texas, California, Michigan or North Carolina), you now have a wonderful option for recycling those old computers, monitors, and other electronics sitting in your closet (or, in our case, basement). Dell and Goodwill have teamed-up to recycle used electronics instead of sending them to a landfill. You just need to drop it off at your local participating facility. And you may even qualify for a tax deduction.

Everybody wins!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Most Fun $1 You'll Ever Save

California Tortilla, a chain of Mexican food restaurants, is featuring an amazingly simple, yet engaging discount offer one can imagine: save a buck if you beat the cashier at Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Genius, genuine, and generally great marketing tactic.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Outdoor Advertising: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

Two articles caught my eye this morning:

The first, from BusinessWeek, describes how the government of Sao Paolo, Brazil has decided to eliminate any and all outdoor ads, such as billboards, bus wraps, or the like within its city limits.

The second, from the Wall Street Journal, discusses the government of China removing billboards in its previously highest-profile area for advertising.

On a global scale, these two ad bans are just small drops in the ocean that is advertising. But they bring up an interesting point-- do people want, or at the very least, mind, advertising out in public? And subsequently, do these two occurrences indicate a gradual elimination of public advertising or are they just extreme examples of places where advertising is unloved?

My personal hunch is that if outdoor ads really bothered people all that much, there would be more uproars about them than we currently see. Occasionally we'll hear about a rural township banning billboards because they mar the landscape, but on the whole, people seem pretty used to it all.

But that's just me. What do you think, dear advertising pundits?

(Note: Image from mulfordgallery.com... nice stuff!)

Friday, June 15, 2007

It's Easy Being Green

Though a famous puppet frog laments in a tune that "It's Not Easy Being Green," many companies are now finding that to be no longer the case. Commercials and testimonials abound about how environmentally friendly (aka "green") they have become. Green is the new black, as fashionistas might say.

For example, a recent commentary in a New Jersey business magazine called COMMERCE (their caps lock must have been stuck) featured an article by Silverjet CEO Lawrence Hunt discussing the incredible amount of carbon his company's jets pump into the atmosphere every year, and how he's trying to do something about it rather than putting his company's proverbial head in the sand. For each plane ticket sold, according to the article, Silverjet includes a "mandatory, nominal offset fee" which is then directed to "The CarbonNeutral Company, an independent eco-portfolio company, who applies the money to various green projects across the world to accurately offset the total travel emissions." Interesting concept.

While Silverjet is not the only company doing something like this, they certainly are on the forefront of environmentally-mindful initiatives in the airline industry. Meanwhile other companies in other industries are trying to stake their claims as environmental leaders. See: Toyota, BP, Whole Foods, et al. Commercials about going green abound.

So what should we make of this new marketing trend of "going green"? Is this a result of companies waking up and wanting to change the world? Or is it just a "feel-good" ploy that companies use to try and attract new customers? And lastly, has it become "too easy" to be green?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Post on Post Cards

Are post cards the dinosaurs of the communications world? Or are they actually one of the most effective forms of reaching someone?

With the advent of the telephone, then faxes, then e-mail, and now social networking sites, text messaging, and more, it would be fair to surmise that the post card is a form of communications past. But perhaps that's not so.

An article in the Chicago Tribune discusses the status of the humble post card in the midst of lightning fast and efficient communication tools that we have gotten used to over the years. While we could zap an instant message to a friend across country and get a response as quick as he or she can type and send back, there's a missing tangibility and ghostlike quality to that message. But a post card has a creative, contextually-meaningful, and friendly quality to it that keeps it relevant and widely used in today's tech-savvy society. Indeed, I'm not the only one to think this as there were over 2.3 billion post cards sent from U.S. households last year, and another 4 billion sent from U.S. businesses as part of direct mail advertising campaigns.

So despite the added cost and time involved to send a post card, people still relish the ability to communicate with a person in this decidedly "old school" way.

Maybe these "dinosaurs" truly do continue to roam the Earth after all...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cut to Black: Will New Jersey Need a New Brand?


CAUTION SPOILERS!

So The Sopranos is finally over, and for some the series went into the night rather quietly. For me, the sudden ending felt like I'd been shot. Life doesn't always supply a "neat finish", especially for a wiseguy. I never saw it coming, and I can't say I wasn't warned. All in all, after a few hours, the chill of being so unceremoniously dispatched convinced me that creator and episode writer David Chase had done an effective job of closing the coffin on the series. All that's left is me accepting it's really gone, and doing my best to move on.

But with Frank Sinatra gone, Springsteen well under the radar, and Don Imus sullying the Rutgers sporting reputation with his comments about the women's basketball team, The Sopranos was still something New Jersey could be proud of. They put The Garden State on the world map, even if a few people got upset with the way the series supposedly insulted the Italian-American community. Personally, I like the tough-guy rep the mob family gave us, and even though I hail from the far more bucolic southern region, I'd perfected a mean Tony impression that tickled friends around the world.

So, now what? I know On Location Tours are wondering the same thing. They conduct four-hour tours for between 400 - 500 people a month at $40 a pop, stopping at many of the locations that were made famous by the show: Satin Dolls, New Skyway Diner, and Satriale's to name a few. Apparently they expect the tours to become even more popular, and I hope that's the case. But will New Jersey begin to lose its blush as fast as my impression? How long before it's just another state with high insurance rates and ever rising taxes and my Tony advertises me as just a half-Italian guy who can do another full-blooded Italian guy with an attitude?

We need a new symbol to help keep New Jersey in the hearts, minds and wallets of the interested public, and we need one fast before the pasta gets cold and our hallowed hot spots become as lonely and unvisited as Bobby Bacala's head stone.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Does Your Company Have a Backup Plan?

The AP is reporting that a deal has been made for New York City's vital financial institutions to set up a backup data center in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The plan is for trading and financial operations to continue in the event of a wide-scale terrorist attack (or weather disaster, I suppose), because a backup system will be in operation to handle trades, etc.

This had me thinking that sometimes small or even large businesses don't think about backing up their important data ahead of time, before disaster strikes. This leaves them vulnerable to significant losses should something go awry.

Perhaps now is a good time to take a look at your backup plans and see if they need retooling. And then get back to marketing. :-)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Speaking of Longevity, This 'Bark' Is Time-Tested

So we've talked this week about the new Olympic logo's supposed "longevitity" and how great it will be for the London Games. And it's funny because, the logo really only needs to "last" a few months or so during the actual Games, but apparently a few months has now extended into a few years. But that's neither here nor there.

I'd rather focus on some genuine longevity. I am absolutely amazed by the longevity of everybody's favorite game show host, Mr. Bob Barker of the Price is Right. In fact, when you think of the Price is Right, your brain is immediately hard-wired to think about Bob Barker-- the two are forever intertwined after 35 years of game show fun. Now that's effective branding right there folks. Imagine choosing the exact right spokesperson-- or logo or slogan or other brand trait-- that lasts three-and-a-half decades! Other than the few elite companies who have maintained a strong, consistent, memorable brand, such as Coca-Cola or Wrigley, this is indeed a rarity.

But now the Price is Right will have to re-brand themselves with a new host. Yes, as you undoubtedly have heard, Bob Barker is retiring, after giving away an estimated $200 million in prizes, having won 17 Emmy Awards, and developing a cult of fans that traveled thousands of miles every year just to see him run a simple little show. Truly a marketer's dream.

After June 15th, Bob's last broadcast, the new game begins... that of replacing a long-lasting "brand" with a new one. Let's just hope that the powers that be at the Price is Right don't pick somebody who horrifies the show's fans and gives people epileptic seizures during a broadcast. That would just be plain bad.
P.S.-- Thanks Bob for all the memories... congrats on your retirement, but we'll miss you!

The Olympic Logo Saga Continues



Okay, so controversy continues to build around the Olympic logo and this time its' supporters have delivered their case to the media. Doesn't anyone realize that Paris Hilton is still in jail?

First, sources say that the design firm behind the logo, Wolff-Olin, are pleased with the response the logo has received and that everything is going to plan. Uh-huh. Apparently they feel this nuclear burst of negative publicity was expected all along, and that the logo will "evolve" over the next five years to something everyone will want tattooed on their chest next to their tribal Clara Peller likenesses. Not sure I'm buying that, but I can't find a quote so maybe it's bunk anyway.

Next up refers to the pictures you see above you. On the left is what's called a "tanagram set". Chinese in origin, they're used to create indentifiable shapes like the pic on the right. A design studio in Chicago by the name of Coudal Partners suggests, among other things (ten in all, to be exact) that the logo's similarity to such an ancient puzzle game makes it "timeless". Other examples refer to mostly design elements of the 1980's, and may I say that even in the 1980's, the Olympics didn't care to use anything neon and, well, new wave of sorts. How did that competition fare? Did they sell a lot of t-shirts? Because I don't recall needing a lot of reminding that the Olympic Games were on their way, but I do remember a beach towel that I quite liked that had the '84 Olympics logo.

My personal view, after reading Coudal's views, is that it's still a huge miscalculation by a company who was paid well for their mistakes. It happens. I know they meant well, but all this analyzing is kind of missing the point for me. We don't need timeless for something that happens every four years. In fact, I'm not sure we need anything more than the traditional Olympic rings. A logo, in the end, catches on or it doesn't. Hardly anyone I know outside of the design and advertising business deconstructs the artists' vision when taking the half second to decide whether they like a logo or not. And let's face the heart of the matter, it's about what it will be on: t-shirts, mugs, hats...beach towels. Unless someone is dying to bring back the 1980's yet again, who's going to care how many different shades of day-glo it can service?

Apparently it works better in motion, which is saying something, I suppose. But it's when it's still that most of us will be delivering our consumer opinion.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The logo that keeps on giving...


First of all, I have to thank the Olympic Logo Committee for releasing their prized effort at the same time Bizpizzazz went live. Could you ask for better fodder? No, no you couldn't.

It now appears to be the case that the animated footage of the logo, featured on the official website, has caused epileptic fits in eight people, forcing its removal. You just can't make this stuff up, folks.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The 2012 Olympics Logo


So design firm Wolff-Olins collected £400k (nearly $800k) for something that looks like it was crapped out of a neon elephant. Unreal.

The international response has been huge, and mostly homogenous; it's depressingly, blindingly awful. How could something like this happen? Surely meetings were taken, experts consulted, and dozens if not hundreds of other designs considered. When teams of marketing professionals and creative individuals deposit this upon our collective retinas, is there anything at all for us to learn?

Well?