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.

  • 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--"


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...


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...