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? 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.


(Or am I?)