Monthly Archives: March 2005

That’s one big late fee

In a follow up to a previous post, Blockbuster has settled with 47 states and DC for their misleading “no more late fees campiagn” in the amount of $630,000.

The question that immediately popped in my mind, for some reason…what are the 3 states that didn’t question the campaign and/or didn’t get involved…and why? I’m trying to google and figure it out.

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All Hat – No Cattle

What if your product were given unprecedented levels of publicity by one of the world’s most powerful celebrities? It was in the spotlight for days. Latenight TV talked about it. Morning radio and TV talked about it…it was fodder for real news stories for days.

Think you could translate that into sales?…massive sales?

Maybe…if you had a decent product.

Last year, Oprah Winfrey gave 276 audience members a new Pontiac G6. It was talked about so much everywhere that it made you sick. At this point, you’d think that everyone in America would have a G6 in the garage.

That’s not the case. Industry experts are saying that sales of the G6 are flat and below expectations. The G6 replaced the Pontiac Grand Am and sales of the G6 are about half of what the Grand Am were.

Why? Experts say the car is unremarkable. It’s attractive, reliable, and average. It’s boring. It’s vanilla.

Even with massive marketing and free publicity…it’s hard to sell vanilla.

Marketing MUST begin with the product…even if you’ve got Oprah’s help.

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Brand Overextension

Coke has announced a new diet beverage called Coke Zero. This will be the 3rd (or more if you count Tab) diet drink that Coke has offered.

The announcement of “Coke Zero” will have zero effect except to negatively impact the brand. You can only expand so much before people start saying “What??”

Coke should have been thankful that C2 didn’t kill Diet Coke…Zero will hurt Diet Coke especially now that Pepsi has decided to reinvent the marketing for Diet Pepsi.

Another classic example of over extending your brand while I’m ranting is Pizza Hut. How many variations of cheese and tomato sauce on bread can R&D dream up?? The cheese is in the crust….then there’s four types of pepperoni…what’s next? The dollars to promote these fringe products draws away from the core.

Don’t over-extend your brand. Stengthen the core.

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Healthcare Marketing

For years, healthcare marketing has been held back by regulations and tradition-set doctors.

If you’re a healthcare provider and need help with marketing, there are already a few engagments I’ve been booked for this year where I’ll be dealing with healthcare marketing.

I blogged earlier about a program I’ll be presenting in May to the Women’s Healthcare Conference in Lexington, KY called “Healthcare Marketing 101”.

I’m now announcing I’ll be appearing in Nashville, TN at the Medical Group Management Association’s national conference in October presenting a program entitled “Developing a Marketing Plan for your Healthcare Organization”

If you can’t make it to either of these events, remember that I do speak across the country on various marketing topics including healthcare marketing. If you’d like information about a keynote, general session, private conference, whatever…I’d love to speak with you. Find out more info on the website at

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The Customer is in Control

I’ve often said that your customers control your brand…but they can control alot more too. This is a blurb from Tim Manners via reveries….

About three-quarters of attempts at innovation fail because of the way
corporations go about it, says Eric Von Hippel of M.I.T., as reported in
The Economist (3/10/05). According to Eric, who is also about to publish a book
called Democratizing Innovation, the mistake is that the firms typically send
market researchers out into the field to identify “unmet needs” and then turn
the results over to product-development teams. He says they should instead
identify “the few special customers who innovate” and invite them in to
brainstorm the possibilities.

NOT FOCUS GROUPS. Am I making myself clear? These are not focus groups. These are customers as your R&D. Take a look at these examples from Tim…

GE Healthcare calls these special customers “luminaries” and they meet
regularly to discuss GE’s latest technologies and how to turn them into
products. You know, to bring good things to light, or life. Imagination at work.

Staples, the office supplies retailer, applies a similar concept but in a
different way. It held “a competition among customers to come up with new ideas.
It got 8,300 submissions,” according to Michael Collins of Big Idea Group, which
helped Staples stage the competition. One result is a new product called
“wordlock — a padlock that uses words instead of numbers” that Staples will
launch this spring.

About two years ago, BMW “posted a toolkit on its website” that allowed its
customers to suggests ways in which the carmaker “could take advantage of
advances in telematic and in-car online services.” About 15 of the 1,000
customers who used the kit were invited to meet with BMW’s engineers in Munich
and some of the resulting ideas are now in concept stage.

Sometimes, however, the customer innovation happens whether the marketer
asked for it or not. For example, back in 1997, Lego was about three weeks away
from launching a build-it-yourself robot development system” called Mindstorm,
when about 1,000 hackers “downloaded its operating system, vastly improved it,
and posted their work freely online. After a long stunned silence, Lego appears
to have accepted the merits of this community’s work: programs written in hacker
language may now be uploaded to the Mindstorms website.”

In any case, as Eric Von Hippel notes, the conceptdoesn’t cost much because
many customers consider being “listened to” compensation enough. As BMW’s Jeorg
Reimann explains: “They were so happy to be invited by us, and that our
technical experts were interested in their ideas. They didn’t want any

Free R&D that you know works because the true consumers/users/fans of your product are designing it. Open Source is where it’s at.

Maybe you don’t need to jump in this deep…but you do need to listen to your customers.

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Rice Empowerment

After church yesterday, we headed to one of the more dependable restaurants in Bowling Green for lunch.

My brother-in-law loves rice as a side item. He asked the waitress if they had rice as a side.

Her response was ” We have rice for the stirfrys, but it’s not a side.”

So he was denied rice even though there was a big fluffy pot in the kitchen. He chose the sugar snap peas.

Sugar snap peas are much more expensive than a cup of rice. So the restaurant lost money on the deal. But let’s look over that.

Why was she not empowered to “break the rules” for customer happiness and satisfaction? You could tell she was a relatively new waitress so perhaps she’ll come around.

But, how many times does this happen in a day all over the country? Because something is not SOP, the customer is not satisfied when it would be a win-win if the rules were broken.

Empower your employees to make the customer happy. It’s the first step in marketing.

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Marketing by Committee

I was just speaking to a friend who is a marketer. She was dreading a meeting with her company’s “marketing committee.”

Many companies have a marketing committee to help brainstorm and provide input to the marketing department. Management feels that this allows employees to “be involved” in marketing.

This is a bad idea.

Why don’t you have an office supply committee to pick out the colors of pens you order? How about an accounting committee to help figure out where the credits and debits are posted? Or even better, what about a human resources committee to help decide who is hired and fired?

Committees, by nature, are full of compromises so solutions from a committee are usually watered down versions of the original. Marketing by committee leads to lots of bad ideas and poorly thought out plans. Instead of bold strokes from the marketing brush, you get a wall of beige.

This is not to say that the marketing department should be sitting on the mountaintop handing down dogma to the rest of the company. A good marketer in a company will already be engaging other departments about their needs and concerns. Good marketers will always have an ear to the ground about what the feel of the company is.

Hopefully, you hired the people in the marketing department because they’re good marketers who know how to market. Let them do it.

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Greg Stielstra, Senior Marketing Director of Zondervan, who publishes the book The Purpose Driven Life, has coined a term for reaching down to target specific groups instead of mass marketing. It’s Pryomarketing …which is a little odd for a Christian book publisher, but whatever.

He’s quoted as saying that if he promoted a book about quilting “to one-tenth of one percent of left-handed quilters,” he could land the title on the non-fiction bestseller list and prime it for even bigger success.

And he’s right.

I just wish I had come up with the name.

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