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Monday, November 30, 2009

Now with more juicy bits of orange

Several years ago I ran across a selection of orange juices. There was a pulp-free variety, one with added calcium, and a variety with "some pulp." All were priced the same, except for one that had the following label:

"Now with more juicy bits of orange!"

That variety was 75 cents more per gallon. Someone successfully was charging more for doing less because they took a negative sounding word and made it delicious. The word pulp is not pleasant sounding. But juicy bits of orange are downright tasty. Certainly most people would understand that juicy bits of orange are what they know as pulp, and those who are anti-pulp would avoid this variety, but there are people who like this product and they want something that sounds good.

Take a look at your products. What attributes are there that people enjoy, but you are selling short or failing to highlight at all? Shouldn't you get noticed for those benefits before your competitor comes along and sells the same attribute but gets more attention?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's all about making money

Car rides can be quite interesting with the children. Sing-a-longs, fighting about who is sitting too close, begging for Slurpees, and talking marketing. Today's revelation from my 6 year old daughter showed more insight than many professionals in the workplace.

"There is more commercial time on the radio because it is getting close to Christmas, and they need to sell more things to make money."

Yes, at 6 years old she was able to identify that commercial time is ramped up for the holiday season. Not an earth-shattering thought, but unique for someone that age to identify. But then it got really deep and interesting.

"I think the Shane Company sells fake diamonds, and that is how they are cheaper than other jewelry stores. Except for Walmart, but those are fake too."
You have been successful at getting attention, but has your advertising been too good to be true? I have bought from the Shane Company a couple of times, and was quite pleased with the overall experience. Low prices, friendly service, and honesty. I never felt pressured or looked down on for wanting to buy something less expensive. I wondered, if it is so pleasant to shop here, how do other jewelry stores exist in the face of this tremendous competition?

Quality jewelry at low prices is something we are trained to believe does not exist. The other jewelers I have experienced are masters of reinforcing that belief. High-pressure, poor service, and a feeling that you do not belong if you are trying to be frugal. The message sent by the industry is that you must spend several months of your income to make a decent gift.

I won't get involved in any debate over actual merits of jewelry, but my point is that a 6 year old can identify the purpose and effectivity of advertising. Your target customer is likely much more experienced than a child at making consumer decisions. Perhaps your advertising may be saying the wrong thing to potential customers, be it too pushy of frequency, or unbelievable claims that cause people to doubt your product.

Need help to communicate effectively? Drop a message for me, I'll even throw in a 6 year-olds advice for free.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why the line?

In-N-Out Burger(R) opens today in Draper, Utah. From the look of things you would believe they are giving away million dollar bills. People are camped out and lined up causing traffic problems. Everyone in Utah wants to be among the first to taste the legendary burgers.

Don't bring out the torches and pitchforks, but I may inadvertently (okay, maybe not so inadvertently) dispel the power of the legend. If you want to understand why all the hype, read on. If not, just know that I am not bashing on the success, but rather explaining the science behind a phenomenon.

For a number of years I drove past two locations of In-N-Out Burger morning and night. I have eaten at several locations, a number of times. The food is fresh, inexpensive, and served quickly. The locations are clean, attractive, and usually energetic. The same can also be said for many other fast-food restaurants across the world.

Looking at the quality claims made by In-N-Out reveal their use of 100% pure, high-quality beef. No fillers, additives, and preservatives. Is this much different from the competition? You may think so, but it isn't. In fact, there's another chain who does the same which may surprise you. I am not saying there is no difference between In-N-Out & the world's most famous clown, but there are many things the same.

So why does an In-N-Out grand opening result in people camping out? Excellent branding. They always have been privately owned, which allows them control of the brand, quality, and experience which their customers enjoy. The company also maintained their expansion within close proximity, most locations in California, and they have slowly spread to adjoining states where they could control the supply chain and properly manage each location. A great management strategy maintains quality, which extends a positive experience with the brand.

There are also several factors which affect the psychological connection with the legendary chain. Beginning in southern California, they had access to a large number of vacationers. People on vacation are pumped full of endorphins (technical way of saying they feel good) and that results in general enjoyment of most things, even waiting in lines at Disneyland to an extent. Vacationers come back with memories, which often included a visit to In-N-Out, which was an exciting and new burger to these people. Their excitement and bragging makes great word of mouth, thus a legend is born.

Choices are great, right? The more options you provide to your customers makes people feel special. But there is also much to be said about the In-N-Out menu, exclusivity shows confidence. Do you want a Double-Double, Cheeseburger, or Hamburger, and would you like fries with that. The lack of dozens of menu items tells people the food is so good, this is all you need.

Finally, the "not so secret menu" makes people feel like they are in a club. As previously mentioned, customers like choice. What they like even more than that is a feel of belonging. All these factors add up, and what happens is the making of a legendary brand. Even from something as simple as a common fast-food burger.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We don't want to hear from you

Companies have been communicating via e-mail for over a decade, so why do customers get so excited when they are contacted via twitter? Why do we crave companies with a social media presence? Because we are not used to getting a response, and we have been trained to believe email is a one-way street from companies.

One simple mistake:

First things first, if you email customers you need to dump the "Do not reply" addresses. Also, you must make it easy for customers to contact you, and you need to reply to them.

When a company has an active Twitter account or Facebook fan page, it makes them approachable and customers like to feel like they are on even ground with the company they do business with. When they see Do Not Reply in every email, the message they receive is "we want to talk at you, but will not listen if you have anything to say."

With that said, if your social media plan is just to "build a Facebook fan page" or get on twitter, please don't. Your plan should be how you plan to communicate with your customers. Not just set a page, and forget it. Customers will either learn that you don't listen there either, or they will just forget you are there.

Just like with all advertising and marketing, why spend money telling people about your company if your potential customers will just feel disappointed once they find you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Everyone says they hate it, but...

Spam is universally hated. Not only is it hated, despised, and otherwise frowned upon by everyone, but it is also the topic of a $712 million lawsuit. Facebook sued spammer Sanford Wallace and was awarded the second largest settlement in a spam case. The infamous "Spamford" as he is known was also fined $230 million in a case with MySpace last year.

So why are there so many spammers out there willing to take this risk? Because unfortunately, it works. As much as people claim to hate spam, they sure do make it valuable for the spam dealers. A recent investigation showed that pharmaceutical spam can generate more than $4,000 per day in sales.

Further, the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) reports that 52 percent of email users have clicked on spam, with 12 percent of those doing so "because they were actually interested in the product or service being offered." Think of how few people redeem coupons or act on legitimate emails from companies they subscribe to, and these are outstanding numbers. That level of response is enough to keep the spam industry in business.

So who are these rogues who open spam? Considering it is 52%, it must include people that you speak to and who you have heard complain about spam. Another example of people's behavior being counter to what they say.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shhh, we're trying to get publicity

If you want people to talk about your business, you need to give them something to talk about. Seems pretty simple. However, some do not seem to understand this.

A recent example of this was seen on Twitter when Steve Murphy began his @Twakeup_Now campaign. On October 23 we began seeing tweets telling us to get ready to Twakeup on October 27. The tweets were coming from users around the country who were asked to help lead their community to this event. However, they were sworn to secrecy as to what the event was. Of course, this led to followers of these individuals to comment that they are tired of being spammed with Twakeup tweets.

No details and no hints as to the topic. When visiting the website only revealed a list of the people tweeting about Twakeup, called pod leaders. It may have created interest among some people, but many of the replies I saw were just of annoyance and questioning the "pod leader" what they were talking about.

Remember, spam is something unwanted by the reader. Twitter followers will always find topics they know nothing about to be spam, especially if there is no method to find out what is being talked about.

Four days later, it is revealed that Twakeup is a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Great cause, but a few fatal flaws in this campaign. The biggest, if your intent is to raise money for a charitable cause, why not just reveal that on October 23 when the Twitter account is created and website put up? Even if the infrastructure had not been created to accept donation on the website, you will get more attention if you tell people what to expect.

Most would not call a awareness to support cancer research spam, but when they do not know what @Twakeup_Now is, it is just spam.

Keeping the intent quiet for four days simply does the opposite of what is desired. Instead of getting people excited for the event and making the general public want to be a part of it, these individuals frustrated their followers and failed to capitalize on building word of mouth. People will talk about your product, if you tell them what it is. Keeping secrets from the public will not help build momentum.

By the end of the first day, they tweeted that they were almost to $1000. Four days later, the tweets revealed that bigger donations were coming in and they were up to $5000. Had Mr. Murphy been up-front to the public about the intentions of Twakeup_Now, that first day may have brought in bigger donations and they would not have had to wait for four days to get to $5000. The potential was there, but he stunted the potential to make Twakeup even more effective. Lesson here, if you want people to be aware of your product, get it out there as soon as possible. Don't keep it a secret and hope people will become interested in mystery meat.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Demographics, useless to marketers?

As we gain more insight into consumers we find that many of the age-related assumptions we made in the past are incorrect. Apparently there are people in their 60s who love candy, just like those who are only 6 years old. Just as there are bloggers and Facebook users who are in their teens, as well as those who are grandparents to teens.

There is value to knowing who your consumers are, but the typical "demographics" research typically falls short of drawing important correlation to who consumers are, and what motivates them to buy. Does being 32 lead someone to purchase Crest toothpaste versus Colgate? Moreover, some demographic categorizations do not even make sense. 18-49 is often used to describe a consumer group. Aside from "people who most likely have jobs" this age range has very little in common simply because they are within an age group. Of course you will find 18 year olds who buy the same products at the same store of 49 year olds. How does that help you better position your product?

There are times when an age group is an important factor to consider. The important thing to remember is to question those demographics rather than jumping to a conclusion and alienating your customers because someone showed you a statistic.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Small business doesn't get social media

Small business does not find value in social media. Does this mean there's no value, or simply that many small business owners (or large businesses for that matter) just don't understand how to use it?

According to a recent poll by Citibank / GfK Roper survey of 500 small business executives across the United States, 76% have not found social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be helpful in generating business leads or for expanding their business during the last year, while 86% say they have not used social networking sites to get business advice or information. Maria Veltre, Executive Vice President of Citi's Small Business Segment, concludes "... small business owners are still feeling their way into social media... many... may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them." This is the bottom line, it is about the time and manpower rather than a reflection of the media.

If a business bought television advertisements at 3 am, and did not see a return, does that mean TV advertising is worthless?

What if an advertisement was run in print newspapers and magazines, but the company forgot to put contact information in the ad? Does that make print ineffective?

These examples may seem obvious to many, but that is because this media has been around for a long time and we have gotten used to what works and what does not.

Social media is something that takes time to understand, and most small businesses do not have a lot of time to devote to learning and connecting in this user-generated media. There is value, it will just take some education on the media, and time to connect with your community. Furthermore, if small businesses turn to social media for advice they are connecting with the people who matter most: the customer. This is why so many businesses fail, they are trying to interpret business advice from Forbes magazine rather than connecting with the people who will keep them in business. You will never find the secret to success published in a book, magazine, or newspaper. The secret to success is listening to your consumers.

Nothing just happens for free, that's why it is called work.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hitting where it hurts, there's an app for that

Part of me wanted to applaud the new ad campaign by Verizon Wireless, "There's a map for that" but then I saw the end of the commercial. The part that has prompted a lawsuit by AT&T, in which they show a map of AT&T's 3G coverage. The graphical display of the two providers' 3G coverage area is shocking, and although Verizon states that it represents AT&T's 3G areas specifically, AT&T feels that customers believe there is no wireless coverage in the white area.
The lawsuit requests an emergency injunction to stop the ads and claims significant losses of market share and goodwill, prohibiting them from competing. It is true that customers can be easily confused with the technical differences between having 3G coverage, and having slower wireless coverage. What matters is what the public believes, and AT&T polled many customers who were indeed under the impression that there was no coverage.

The Verizon commercial was upbeat and positive, and sold benefits of their available smartphones and superior 3G coverage. It should have left it at that. While Verizon technically did nothing wrong, it is an accurate map, directly attacking their rival was not a necessary maneuver and could cause problems for them. It is usually wise to keep your hits above the belt, even when you have a knock-out punch ready to deliver. In business, your competitor can hit back with the legal system.

The bigger the company, the bigger the blunder

Toyota stumbled into a mess with a launch of their new 4-Runner website. (I imagine this site link will soon be broken, since they're going to need to rectify the situation). To set the mood of wildlife for their SUV brand, they looked to photographers on Flickr to provide photography for the microsite. They found several great photographs which were used, unfortunately they never asked the photographers for permission.

Michael Calanan (a talented photographer & friend) posted his concern on Twitter the evening of Tuesday, November 3. The conversation towards @Toyota must have got their attention, as they promptly tweeted Wednesday morning to the photographers involved.

This is why your company needs an experienced marketer on staff. Real marketing directors have an understanding of intellectual property laws. Photographs, fonts, illustrations, and other design elements found online are not free for you to use, especially for commercial purposes. Further, marketing personnel are meant to understand consumers. First and foremost, the responsibility of marketing is to know what motivates people, and how they will react. Not knowing that professional photographers would certainly notice the increased traffic on their Flickr pages, and be upset about someone using their work without contacting them is a fatal mistake. If they fail to understand this, do they understand what Toyota customers actually want from their vehicle? There may not be a correlation, but it begs to be asked.

If I was to guess, I would say it was not malicious intent of Toyota to steal these photographer's work, but was a lack of intellectual property understanding. That does not excuse what they have done. Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. Whether you are a multi-billion dollar company, or a small boutique, you need to respect the property rights of others. If you are unsure of what you can or cannot do, ask for help from a real expert.