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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?