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Monday, November 15, 2010

Small business failure, a lack of appreciation for the competition

Many small businesses are started because of a dislike for the competition. But how many of those small business people actually think about the things their competition is doing right? It takes a thorough investigation into everything that is happening in the industry to succeed in business.

I just read an incredibly insightful article in Wired about Ticketmaster, aka: the evil empire that "everyone" hates. You know, that company that charges you $10-20 in fees for a $15 event ticket. I'm guessing that many small ticketing start-ups began because of their frustration with the extraordinary fees, and lack of creativity of the market giant. But how many of them appreciated what Ticketmaster can do better than anyone?

I'm not playing devil's advocate here, as I believe the cannibalistic nature of the excessive fees is long-term bad for both venues and performers. But what is true is that your small business will not succeed if you haven't evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. Will your upstart ticketing company be able to handle millions of tickets sold this week without system failure? Can you lock down 40,000+ seat venues in your market? Do you need to?

Not every business must be able to topple the giant in their industry, but there is a need to truly understand your competition, how you're similar, and different. You must know what your place is in the market, and understand what challenges your competition hands you. I worked with a small upstart recently who boasted the ways they were doing something no one else in the industry was focused on. Problem was, the positive things they were doing were indeed exactly the same as the rest, while the only unique elements of their business were not desired by their customers. They were preparing for a take-over of an industry, when in reality all they were equipped for was a small slice of a pie that was firmly controlled by their competition.

Get to know your competition. Discover what you can do better, and know what they do better than you. Learn from their expertise and hardships to get where they are.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pork Council believes people prefer fairy tales?

Intellectual property disputes have always been one of my greatest passions, as well as frustrations. So many complexities taken into consideration to decide who has rights to what brand name or tagline. It can be exhilarating if you're into that sort of thing. Other times it can be downright frustrating. Then other times it can be hysterical.

ThinkGeek, an online marketer of technology accessories, comical shirts, and other hysterical parody products, posted an April Fools joke product for "Canned Unicorn Meat." Anyone with an ounce of common sense would know this is a joke, and curious parties who attempted to purchase the product got a message that they had just fallen for an April Fools gag. Everyone got a good laugh out of it, everyone except for the National Pork Board.

In the advertisement for mythical meat product, ThinkGeek used the phrase "The new white meat" and several sites referred to the product as "the other white meat." The National Pork Board had their lawyers send a cease & desist letter, pointing out that THE OTHER WHITE MEAT is a registered trademark of the National Pork Board and ThinkGeek's use of the term is an infringement and dilution of  their trademark rights.

Trademarks are a way to distinguish that the product in question comes from a unique source. That way, we know whether we're buying Hormel's authentic SPAM product, and not an off-label spiced ham meat byproduct. Trademarks are important to help consumers know they are buying the authentic product that they prefer. If another company attempted to call their spiced ham canned meat SPAM, Hormel could interject and bring legal action against the offending company.

I don't believe any consumers saw the canned unicorn meat and truly believed it was a viable replacement for pork. This was not a true threat to the National Pork Board, nor was it something damaging to the public's love of pig-derived meats. The real threat to the National Pork Board are the counselors to the board who thought it would be a good idea to pay thousands on the drafting of a legal document asking ThinkGeek to stop using the similar taglines to sell their competing meat (which never existed in the first place). Instead, they spent a lot of time and money to provide comic fodder for the masses so we could mock the National Pork Board and Faege & Benson, the attorneys who sent the C&D letter.

Before you react to what you believe is a trademark violation, take a moment to consider whether there is a real threat to your business. It's probably wise to consult with someone other than your trigger-happy lawyers before you dump dollars into starting a fight that doesn't really exist. I'd gladly save you the several thousands of dollars and embarrassment.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I do exist

Just thought I'd drop a post to apologize for the lack of writing anything here for over a month.

Let's just say, it's been busy, surreal, and exciting lately.

I'm composing some thoughts, and plan to be back at it very soon. Until then, consider this:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
 - Robert Frost 
Next time you hit the road, try a different path than your usual. Think about consumer behavior, and the response from major corporations. What do you see on every major highway? McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks. Occasionally there's something different, but you see a lot of the same. What hidden treasure lies just beneath your nose? It could make all the difference. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Coke Zero: A brand promise meant to be broken?

The Brandgym blog recently discussed how hard it is to topple a leader brand in a specific segment. They compared the "men's" calorie-free cola category battle between leading brand Pepsi Max, and the runner up Coke Zero. As they describe, Pepsi Max certainly has a stronger name, great advertising, and clearly stands for the market of men's calorie free soft drinks. But there is one fatal flaw I believe makes a major difference.

Coke Zero makes the claim "Real Coke taste, zero calories." This is the central message in all of their advertising. Yet am I the only person who believes the two drinks taste nothing alike?

The brand promises to taste exactly like Coca-Cola, but one taste tells you otherwise. A brand cannot succeed if the brand promise is not met. The Coca-Cola Company would be wise to focus on Coke Zero as a unique product on its own, just like Pepsi does with Max.

With your brand, you must be what you are, or change the product to deliver that promise. Lying about your product leads to disappointment, and is not a road to success.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Social Media is the new journal of personal history

Every historic movie about an individual begins with a diary. That written record of the person's life, challenges, and perspectives. Before paper, we had cave drawings, and tales written in pottery. Somewhere in the 20th century we seemed to lose this tradition of story-telling and leaving a legacy for the next generations. Very few people saw the passing of their grandparents and great-grandparents followed by a discovery of a journal that gave more insight into who they were and what they thought about.

With the loss of that written word, I feel we lose a bit of where we came from, and who we can be. The fast-paced consumerism lifestyle prevents us from stepping back from the world and writing down our perspectives. Even when we find the time, we worry if something is politically correct to say, and we keep that thought to ourselves where it will die. Sure, some thoughts should be kept to oneself and be forgotten.

Social networks can be that written and visual history of your life, which can be shared and remembered. Let your innermost thoughts spread for everyone to enjoy and get to know you better. Show the younger generations to come that our challenges are nothing new, and that they can learn from what was done before them to make the world better. Don't fear what you post will be read by your family, embrace the fact that they can get to know you better and be part of your life.

And perhaps, one day in the future a movie will be made about you which begins with the reading of a Twitter stream. Be immortal.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Follow the big guy to failure

If you run a small retail store, you need to know that you are not Walmart. Your restaurant is not McDonalds. Unless of course you are one of these, or another major national chain, you shouldn't plan your marketing like they do. Too often, when a business owner wants to attract customers, they turn to the methods they see most, television, radio, print, billboards, etc. These are all effective methods of advertising, for the right business. These are major budget-breakers if they are reaching out to people who are not potential customers.

Take some time to identify your target customers, and how many customers you can actually serve. Then market to them, not everyone.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Learn from your losses

I've been spending a bit of time unsubscribing lately. I love to read, I'm a news junkie, and I love to see what others have to say about the state of the marketing industry. But there can be too much information, especially when so much of it seems like exactly the same message. Not to pick on this group, but can you really have a daily column about marketing to mom's? Do you need to tell people about your packaging conference every day?

But the interesting thing is that of all the email subscriptions I cancelled, only one asked me why I was done with their newsletter. This is an opportunity to understand how you can make your product better, but instead of putting in a simple question on the unsubscribe form, they just lose a customer and never know why.

Most businesses don't get the opportunity to hear a final word from a lost customer. They just go away. If you are sending an email newsletter, don't annoy an already annoyed customer by trying to mine them for a long survey, but ask one simple question:

We'd like to know why you're unsubscribing is it because:
a) I have too many emails
b) I don't find value in your content
c) I've changed jobs, & this is no longer relevant to me
d) It's not you, it's me

Craft an easy question, offer simple solutions to gain information, and if you see a trend that there's something wrong with your content, change it. Whatever you do, don't forget to learn from your losses.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's that noise?

Several years ago, while living in Las Vegas, I was standing outside and having a chat with my neighbor. Suddenly, something didn't sound right. We both stopped talking, and looked at each other with a concerned look. We both knew something was wrong, but couldn't put a finger on it. It was unsettling, unfamiliar, and mysterious.

Moments later, his wife came outside and announced that the power was out inside, and that answered the question we both couldn't answer. You see, it was July, which means the outdoor temperature is somewhere between 110-120 degrees. To make life possible, every house is equipped with an air conditioner, and from May-October these are running almost 24 hours a day. When you have hundreds of air conditioners running in a very close proximity, there is a constant hum in the air from the motors. The mysterious sound that we couldn't figure out was silence.

Noise doesn't just come from motors, and regardless of the source, if it is consistent we learn to ignore it, especially when there is nothing we need to hear. Think about the programming on many TV stations, the commercials, your marketing messages, even your blog. Does your message sound like something everyone has heard many times before? Are you saying something new, or communicating simply for the sake of putting your noise out there?

When we hear the same commercial repeatedly, we learn to ignore it. Billboards along our commute just become part of the backdrop. The bank talking about free checking? It's just noise to us. When I see someone blog, tweet, or otherwise talk about the top 10 SEO tips/tricks/mistakes, I shut down. It's been said, it's been repeated, and now it's just noise.

Think about your message, is it really a unique thought, or a break-through message? Are you finding a new way to tell a story? Or are you blogging, advertising, writing, or broadcasting simply because it's time to do so? Remember what happens when we can count on the noise. It just gets lost as part of the background.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A CLOSED sign is the same as being out of stock

Marketers, we need to have a talk. Product management is the center of your job. First, and foremost, you need to have a product that people want, and that they can use. No amount of promotion, communication, and brand recognition will make you successful if you don't have these two things:

1. People want, & even need your product.
2. You make it easy for them to buy from you.

I walked a couple of miles around downtown Salt Lake last Sunday, hoping to find an open espresso bar. (Yes, there is coffee in Salt Lake.) We were going to the theatre, and wanted a place to enjoy some hot coffee before the show started. Sure enough, not a spot open in the proximity. Ask a business owner, and they will tell you there's a lack of traffic in the area, thus they would lose money being open. However, these same businesses are frequently spending much of their profits on advertising to get people into their spots.

It's possible that there are days when necessary foot-traffic is low. But this show had a nearly sold-out, 1800 seat matinee followed by an evening presentation. That's 3600 possible customers you could have attracted by simply being open.

This isn't a unique problem to one city. I walked past several closed restaurants in San Francisco one Sunday. Meanwhile, an outdoor farmer's market, and live music had attracted thousands of pedestrians to the area.

If all your competitors are closed on Sunday, or all close at 9pm, you can strike the winning punch by being the one to be open. Think about any consumer packaged goods company, they must operate their factories and produce more product to sell more product. There are reasons to be closed, but think carefully about when you should be closed. When you lock those doors, it's just like the cereal company being out of stock on a retail shelf. Don't let your customers walk up to your empty shelf by seeing a closed sign during a perfect opportunity to win them over.

Monday, February 8, 2010

User-review sites, when shills go wrong

Urbanspoon, the user review site and social network for foodies, has been running a contest to find the "most romantic restaurant" in cities across America. Great idea with Valentine's Day coming up, this could guide a lot of people to try new restaurants they may not be aware of. The problem is that many of the results across the nation are indeed not at all romantic.

I first noticed the problem in Salt Lake, where a bar was leading the vote for several weeks. Not a romantic one by any means. After discussing with many of Urbanspoon's prime members (users who make significant contributions in each city) it was discovered that the problem was very widespread, and frequently due to restaurants inflating the votes themselves by encouraging customers and employees to vote for them. Now I totally condone restaurants asking customers to make their vote, or write a review on these sites. But employees are definitely crossing an ethical line, and asking for a vote that is truly undeserved is not only unethical, but it will backfire on the restaurant, the site, and the credibility of the users.

Shill reviews are always a bad idea. A shill is a positive review for your own business, or posting a negative review for a competitor. People often take advantage of the anonymity of the web, thinking they can say whatever they like with no consequence. The problem is that it is really easy to spot a shill, and once discovered you will feel a worse fate than just a few bad reviews.

In regards to this Valentine's Day contest, if someone looked to this poll to make a decision on a date-spot, then found themselves at a very unromantic place, it's not going to sit well in their minds. There are few experiences in life that carry worse feelings than a failed date. When a restaurant is a factor in a bad date, the customer typically won't give that spot another chance because of how disappointed they were on their visit. The total experience matters when customers are trying a new business, and a bad first impression is a lasting feeling that is not easily cured.

You may think it's all out of fun, or believe that some good attention may get you new customers, but if you get customers under false-pretense the backfire can spread quickly and will turn that target audience against you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Twitter: value or wasteful?

You've heard the research, 40% of all tweets are useless babble, and social networks are being blamed for school-age kids' poor use of grammar. It is the constant joke in the media that all tweets must include "LOL" & "OMG." But is Twitter really useless?

Do you measure your television viewing because of the crap on TV, or never listen to the radio because there is a station you don't like? Writing off Twitter because of some people's updates makes as much sense as not using television advertising because of a program you don't like. I'm currently looking through the DirecTV guide, and out of the hundreds of channels to choose from, there may be 4-5 that I will ever select to watch. Meanwhile, I have run across hundreds of people on Twitter that are worth following. So which one is really the useless medium?

Just like any form of media, there are many different users, messages, and audiences. The key is to measure every media by the value it provides, not the irrelevant noise.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hype vs. truth: Mobile apps

If you follow the industry buzz, or talk to app developing agencies, it sounds as if everyone is madly buying apps for their smartphones. However, a recent study found that 45% of smartphone users have never bought an app. Also, more than 38% spoke of their frustrations regarding the cost of apps.

61% of app purchases are music, which narrows the market for app buyers down significantly. Of the customers who purchased apps, 87% spent less than $50 on apps total last year.

So what is the truth? Are apps hot, or not?

Yes, they are hot. But if someone tells you that you have to have one, and it is a guaranteed revenue channel, they're exaggerating. Actually, outright lying. This is how buzzwords are used to manipulate how we view the world. Apple, Motorola, and other device manufacturers are advertising about apps because they are a feature that many customers are looking for. More than a billion apps have been downloaded from Apple's iTunes App Store. The hype is used by the get-rich-quick types to push app development, and next thing we know, many businesses are creating mobile apps that no one wants.

Reality is, a great mobile app can help customers connect with brands, if it is the right fit. The key is to know your audience, and what they want. Follow your customers, not the industry buzzwords.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's the Cola

Pepsi is a very successful company in its own right, however their pursuit of Coca-Cola can be compared to one thing.
Wile E. Coyote keeps ordering new tools, trying new tactics, and continually fails to catch the Roadrunner. The only winner in Wile's incessant attempts is the Acme Company who continues to profit off of him.

Do you really want to catch the roadrunner, or should you set your sights on something different? Why spend all that money to make Mr. Acme rich?

Back in the better days, Pepsi was the choice of a new generation. Their advertising had a fun and youthful feel that still applied to everyone (remember, no matter how old we are, we want to be thought of as young). Though Coca-Cola has always been number 1, Pepsi wasn't too far behind. It was this threatening market position, and the results of the Pepsi Challenge that led Coca-Cola to make the colossal mistake of introducing New Coke.

Coke reversed their mistake, and for the most part kept their message strong. Meanwhile, Pepsi continued to chase them by using every celebrity and package redesign possible. In 2002, sales of Pepsi were 35% behind Coca-Cola in sales. The slogan was "Think young. Drink young." Then they abandoned the new generation. 2003 brought "The joy of Pepsi." 2004, "It's the cola." Now they are attempting to "Refresh Everything."

Notice anything about the new slogans? They're all head-on attacks against Coke. Joy, refreshment, and all about being "The Real Thing" are brand essences of Coca-Cola. The Acme Company was selling Pepsi countless logo revisions while their advertising messages were making people think about Coke. Today, they sit 41% behind the real thing.

When it comes to your business, do you want to be Wile E. Coyote, and constantly chase the Roadrunner? Or would you rather set a goal that won't have you always the one to have the anvil drop on you?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ranting about the snake-oil sellers

Search engine optimization has been a major buzz-word for a number of years now. While there are a handful of good practitioners out there, there are also a great number of people who are the equivalent of yesteryear's snake-oil salesmen. They know all the keywords, they have all the answers, yet they haven't worked a day in an actual brand-marketing environment. Once you're at the top of the search results, are you actually delivering anything to keep the customers thinking positively about you?

The barrier to entry is low for the internet, which attracts all of the get-rich-quick crowd. It can be very frustrating for a business who is looking for help, when so many seem to have all the right answers. These snake-oil pushers are now excitedly entering the social-media market. They can set up a Facebook fan-page, a Twitter account, and tell you about sites like Urbanspoon, Yelp, and Foursquare. They have quick-tricks with tools to get you thousands of followers. But once you get past the talk, have you really made a meaningful connection with anyone?

There is a great likelihood that they can make you feel great about everything you are paying them for, and they likely can tell you all about the thousands of businesses they have helped. Just like the street-side vendors who could make your hair grow, cure leprosy, and fix all of your problems with a simple elixir, these SEO or social media "gurus" will be quick to sell you tools and tactics to promote your business and get you to the top of Google.

The problem is, being a top result on Google doesn't pay your rent and overhead. A communication strategy is needed, products must meet customer expectations, and customers must want to interact with you. Social media and SEO are a piece of the puzzle, but if that is the only focus of your consultant, you may be left with an empty bottle of snake oil.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Burger King to get into the bar business

Burger King will open a new extension to their fast-food empire in February 2010. The Whopper Bar in Miami will be a new type of restaurant where customers can get beer and burgers with a familiar logo backing up the new concept. Burger King will sell Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors beers along with a special menu of burgers and toppings.

While the obvious challenges will be how to handle the new concept with a new labor structure, considering most fast food restaurants are staffed by employees under 21, and this will require an older workforce, what do you think of the brand implications and their choice to partner with the domestic mass-market brewers?

The big-three brewers (which recently became the big-2 with the acquisition of Coors by Miller Brewing) have been facing a loss of growth recently and have all been financially challenged. Each of these companies has been part of industry-wide consolidations to secure their financial position, while microbrews and imported beers have been increasingly greater in demand. Should BK have tried to ride the wave of the up-market beers rather than partnering with the mass-market drinks? It would seem that bargain-hunters may be the target market for Bud, Miller, and Coors, yet will that crowd be enough to make this new concept successful?

Another interesting challenge is that the name "Whopper Bar" was introduced in Universal Studios theme park, as an upscale location that focuses on Whopper customization. This location will not change to serve beer, which would lead to a fragmentation of the Whopper Bar brand.

What do you think? Is BK making the right alliances, and are they sending mixed messages by having multiple formats under the same name?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Amazon has a deal you cannot refuse

Amazon is yet again shaking up the world of books. To promote sales of electronic books to the Kindle, they are offering a 70% royalty to authors. For those unfamiliar with how much authors make, this is a huge increase. Of course, accepting the new 70% terms come with a catch.

The terms to accept this benefit are not what most would guess. Amazon is not trying to force writers into only distributing through them, but is trying to make Kindle purchases more attractive to buyers. To receive the increased royalty, the book must be priced between $2.99 and $7.99, and must be priced 20% less than the listed price for the physical book.

Faced with the same circumstances, many other companies may have tried to force exclusive deals to make their device more attractive. But this plan makes the product more attractive to both customers and suppliers of the content, which should pay off in the long-term for Amazon. When customers and suppliers are happy, it makes a much better business.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The meaning of life, the universe, and everything

I hope everyone knows that the answer is 42.

Whether you learned this watching the BBC series many years ago, just learned about it from the adventures of Mos Def & Sam Rockwell, or actually read the iconic books by Douglas Adams, there's a message in there that is of great importance in life and market research.

You must know the right question to get the answer you want.

It's all about asking the right questions. Surveys and feedback can often mislead the direction of a company. Too many times I have seen companies invest in product development because a customer said they liked the idea, only to find their intentions were quite different when there was a price tag on that new product.

What good is knowing what people like, what channels they watch, and what websites they are viewing, if you do not know what will motivate them to support your business? Spend more time thinking about the questions you ask, the extra time is worth the wait.

Monday, January 18, 2010

How to get people talking

So you want to be the popular company that people tell their friends about? Do something to make your product easier to use.

Andy Sernowitz pointed out an example of a product feature few probably think about. A big frustration for any parent is changing batteries for kids' toys. Often the toys require a special size screwdriver, and the hunt around the house for the proper tool while the kids are begging to play with the toy can be overwhelming.

Leapfrog replaced that screw with one that could be opened with a penny. They did something great with such an insignificant product component. What can you do?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Does Facebook think about security at all?

I'm not a big evangelist of the whole "personal brand" concept, as I believe many people can keep their business and personal lives properly separate. But Facebook seems to be forcing our private lives into the public eye more each day.

Their newest problem, the Facebook 3.1 app for iPhone scans your address book for phone numbers and emails in your contact list, scans Facebook, and syncs the profile pics with your contact list. Even for those people you are not Facebook friends with.

For an example of how this can be troublesome, an iPhone blog reader shared a story of a coworker who he is not Facebook friends with, but suddenly when she calls he receives a bikini picture of her because it is her profile pic. (The writer of the post was kind enough to mock-up an example image rather than further embarrass the unknowing coworker).

While Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg believes privacy is a thing of the past, how many of you want your profile pics scanned and sent to everyone's iPhones?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Analysis paralysis

John Cage said that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere. Great advice for a company trying to decide whether to try something new. There will always be more analysis that the company could do, more focus groups, more research, more debating... But the bottom line is, nothing will guarantee a success.

Don't get wrapped up in the analysis paralysis trap. If you have a great idea, launch it. Adjust as you go, and know when to make changes. The market moves too quickly for you to debate when the right time to act will be.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
- Wayne Gretzky

Is Google a big evil empire to fear?

A few years ago, you didn't hear many people speak poorly about Google. Now it has its critics who argue they have too much power.

It wasn't too long ago that people were singing praises about a new operating platform that made the personal computer approachable. After several years and a high rate of adoption, people began fearing and criticizing Microsoft.

There's a lot of sentiment for people to shop local and support their small hometown businesses. The people of Arkansas did this in the 1960s, which gave their hometown store the foundation to eventually open over 8,000 stores around the globe, only for the general public to frequently call Walmart "the evil empire."

Are these businesses evil? They are just successful, and when you become the biggest and best at what you do it puts a target on your back. Everyone is always aiming at the top. If you ever get there with your business, be sure to keep in mind that everyone is after you. Use your power for good, and do everything you can to keep your fans engaged and in love with you. You will always have critics, but don't give them more reason to fear you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Losing control in the social media jungle

For any company who resists getting involved in social media, because they don't want to lost control of their brand, you should know that you are likely being talked about out there already.

If you don't establish your own presence, that doesn't shield you from being on the internet. It only means you have no idea what is being said about you. People have always talked to each other about brands, but now we can monitor much of that conversation. Jacob Morgan has a great post titled Do companies have control over their brands that you should read.

Get criticized, respond correctly to your critics, and use that exchange to make a better business. It's another tool in your toolbox, you may as well use it to build something great. I'm not telling everyone to start a Twitter account, or a Facebook fan page, those are not for everyone. But there are many other directories, user review sites, and other ways to connect with your customers. Google yourself, see what happens.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Addressing sports fans

I love to see business owners addressing their customers. Putting yourself in front of the public is a difficult thing, and hearing their feedback gives great insight to help understand what is important. Not every comment on a blog post will be productive, and a business certainly cannot change their strategy simply because one customer thinks everything should be different.

Utah Jazz owner Greg Miller addressed his fans & critics this week. He stated his love for the team, and a commitment to be a winning team. He also pointed out that the payroll is at its highest level ever, that doing business in the NBA is complicated, and that the team is working towards long-term goals.

It is true, I am pretty sure 99% of sports fans do not understand the intricacies of sports as a business. Just like most restaurant patrons don't know what goes on from the kitchen through the management of a restaurant, and shoppers don't know the life cycle of a product. But the owners and staff do need to understand how the business works. It obviously is not impossible to make trades and staff changes, other teams are doing it all the time. So the problem with Greg's explanation is that it just gives his critics more fuel for their fire, and the faithful fans will continue to be faithful regardless. It is nearly the same outcome as no message whatsoever.

It is tough to communicate to your customers, especially when there is general disdain towards your product. Something needs to be said, but it takes a very skillful person to come up with the exact message. I applaude Mr. Miller's concern to address the fans, it was a good move considering the situation the team is in. My only caution is to think deeply about every word and be sure the intended outcome of the communications are achieved.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Marketer of the month: a non-marketer

Thanks to Josh Peters, I saw a very inspiring post from another recent transplant to Salt Lake, DJ Waldow. It got right to the point of what matters most in marketing, the customers.

DJ's story is about a body-shop owner who may not believe he understands marketing, but he is a great marketer by his actions for his customers. While he may not have a world-renowned ad campaign or $10 million logo, he has loyal customers who keep him in business because he not only understands auto-body repair, but he understands what is important to people.

This post said everything so well. It always seems that marketing agencies want to push the latest trend, whether it be logos, TV advertising, brand management, or social media, they treat each buzzword like it is the strategy, when the reality is these are tools to aid your business. The best marketing campaign will not keep a bad product alive forever.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Shhh, we've got a great new attraction

When you have something great, you tell people about it, right? To the contrary of that, here's another example for our "Shhh" series.

Vancouver Aquarium has introduced a unique 4D experience, combining 3D film with environmental effects to make the visitors feel like they are in the movie. During an under-the-sea film, guests are misted with salt water. During Polar Express, a scent of hot chocolate is pumped through the air.
Sounds amazing. Something they want to be noticed for, which is why they have put an entire ad campaign together to promote it. It's enough to make you check out the show schedule to see when you can experience this.

Therein lies the problem. Visit the aquarium's website and there is nothing talking about 4D. So I begin my exploration to learn more. Looking at all the menu options, I determine the best option is "Events and Schedule" which opens up a list of times and show titles, but there are no links on the show titles and no use of the term "4D."

At the bottom of the schedule is the following message in 6pt type:
Now the "4D theater" text in blue is a link to their press-release regarding the experience. Which does have an image of the show currently playing. They mention that the show schedule is posted in the aquarium.

So the information is hard to find, and there is very little description of what to expect. As a business, why do we introduce great shows like this 4D experience? To get people into our attraction. But if we do not tell people enough about the attraction, what is it that makes people want to visit? Most people take the time to research before planning a visit to any venue. We want to know what to expect. If there is not enough information to make us comfortable, we are less likely to take the journey.

There is no reason to leave any information about your attractions to the imagination. Also, if you are advertising something, make sure people see it immediately when visiting your location or website. If you have posters all over town, make sure it is the first thing seen on your site.

Secrets are not a good thing when you're trying to attract attention.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New ideas

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.

"We need ideas people!" Shouts the CEO. Revenue is falling, stagnant, or just not up to expectations. But no matter how much we talk about doing something new, most businesses resort to doing the same old thing. Slash prices, change packaging, have a sale, coupons, etc.

These are the answer sometimes, but getting something new requires new ideas. Imagine if we only changed our perspective, and feared the old ideas while embracing new ideas. How many great products and promotions would we see?