Monthly Archives: May 2005

Medieval Venture Capitalists

Here’s a little history lesson for you…

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1436, entrepreneurs rushed to find venture capitalists to fund massive libraries and bookstores to hold all those books.

  • Pets Library was dedicated to all those peasants with expendable income for their pets
  • Amazon Bookstore was set up to actually sell some of those books
  • L-toys bookstore tried reach children before they died of the plague
  • L-Trade Library attempted to help the nobles do their own investments
  • And a huge number of other libraries and bookstores popped up as well

Then a few years later, only a small number of those businesses still existed. It turns out that a large majority of the peasantry didn’t know how to read. The libraries and bookstores that did make were barely making a profit. All the analysts said that the initial push was a book “bubble”. After the bubble, many businesspeople no longer wanted to create a good book strategy for their businesses. They thought the whole “printed word” thing would pass and they’d be fine with bartering for pigs and goats. Eventually, the printing press became an obsolete relic of the past.

Of course, it didn’t happen that way. And it’s far-fetched fantasy to think that it did. But, I have clients all the time who have the opinion that they don’t need the internet.

The Internet will change the world as much or more than the printed word did….and it will do it faster.

Think about it. The printing press was invented in the mid 1400s. Bibles were the first mass product it created…but literacy and the ability to afford books for the masses didn’t really start until the late 1700s and early 1800s. That’s 300 to 400 years for the juicy middle part of the adoption curve.

It’s been 15 years since the Internet started to be used commercially. Where’s the “literacy” level (knowledge/ability to get online) and affordability (for both connectivity and ability to purchase) for the masses now?

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He had a Grrrrreeeat Voice

One of my favorite pieces of useless trivia is the name “Thurl Ravenscroft”.

It’s a unique name.

You’ve probably never heard of him but you’ve heard his voice hundreds of times. He was the voice of Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes. In Christmas trivia, he was the voice who sang the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in the original 1966 cartoon version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (Boris Karloff did the actual voice of the Grinch) In addition, he did quite a bit of voicework for other Suess productions and some things for Disney as well.

He died this week at the age of 91.

I mention this not only to honor the memory of one of my trivia starters..but also as a lesson about the voice of marketing.

Things have changed since marketers came up with the idea of Tony the Tiger. The voice tone of commercials has become less “the voice of God” that commands authority and almost “tells” you to listen…and has adapted to more of a friendly conversational tone.

This is exemplified in many voiceovers for commercials today…Gene Hackman does Lowes and Oppenheimer Funds, Jeff Bridges does Duracell, Julia Roberts for AOL. These are all conversational voices…not the “Don Pardo” announcer of the past. Slate’s Seth Stevenson has a grrreeeaaatt article that further explains that here.

I spend a few minutes in several of my marketing keynotes and seminars talking about the importance of your ad/pr messages being conversations and not announcements. The mindset of consumers today is not to be told to do something but rather be offered advice that they can take or leave.

Remember that the big voice is not always the one who gets attention.

WikiPedia Article on Thurl Ravenscroft
Story about the Death of Thurl

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Cure for the Common Cold Call

About 2 or 3 times a week, I get a call from someone wanting to sell me something. And these are not the telemarketing freaks at suppertime. These are fairly intelligent (I assume) businesspeople cold calling me in the middle of the day.

The walking leisure suit voice calls and says “Excuse me, but is Chris in?…Well Hi there, I’m Bill Blowaway from and can I ask you a question (no pause) What would you say your biggest marketing problem is…the lack of marketing jargon gobldygook or the changing face of synergies emerging in a new word ma…blah…blah..)

At which point, (if I’m in a good mood) I tell them my biggest problem is lousy salespeople trying to cold call me.

Cold calls don’t work. They are used primarily by insurance and stock salespeople trying to reach a goal at the end of the month.

Lots of sales trainers tell these stories about a great salesperson who could make 200 cold calls in a day. Well, good for him. “Law of No” says he got around 10 or 20 sales. What about the 180-190 people he ticked off /wasted their time?

When you cold call…you destroy your brand.

Good marketing begins with a good product that you already know who will buy it. You have defined a target market.

When you approach marketing in the right way, you’ll dial 200 numbers and get 199 sales (one guy wasn’t at home)

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Forget the Finger Free Frosty Weekend

I had a hard time deciding what to title this post. There was..
–Giving Dave the Finger
–Natafinger! (from “A Christmas Story”)
–Hanging on by a finger
–Other non-family-friendly options

After the scam of the woman planting the finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili, Wendy’s sales have been down. Wendy’s decided to take charge of their public perceptions and offer free Frosties to everyone this past weekend. They estimate they gave away over 14 million. (I had two)

This is a great example of good crisis management. When I’m in a speaking engagement and need an example of a company pro-actively dealing with a bad event, I typically use the Tylenol/ Cyanide scare in the early 80s. I will now start supplementing that with the Wendy’s Chili Finger incident.

Wendy’s has a great brand and this will be a bump in the road for them. It could have been disastrous.

Just remember…no matter how great you run your business…There’s someone out there who can destroy it by introducing a negative touch on your brand. Always be pro-active in building the brand.

Here’s some more in-depth coverage of the Fickle Finger of Chili…

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Radio is Dead. Long Live Radio

Before this post “officially” begins…a bit of background…

I’m an old radio guy who’s (relatively) young. I worked in radio for about 15 years. Luckily, I was in it during a changing time. I started when things were still being done “the old way”…(for you radio folks that would mean cart machines, reel to reels, splice blocks, 24/7 live-local, jock focused, etc) During my stint in radio, I got to see the entire business change. The technical side changed with more automation, satelite fed programming, music on hard drive, etc. And the business side changed with the deregulation of the industry which has led to a monopolistic stranglehold by a few companies on the entire spectrum.

I thought that was a lot of change…but after I “got out”…it changed even more with online streams, Napster, XM and Sirius, Ipods, etc.

All of these new things could/can provide custom “music jukeboxes” and they continue to improve.

And where has radio gone during all this? Radio is still trying to provide a music jukebox for the masses.

The inspiration for this post is a recent format flip in Nashville, TN. WMAK changed to a new format that is sweeping the country called “Jack FM”. This “new ” format is radio’s answer to podcasting with a very broad playlist and no jocks.

And, how is this superior to an Ipod???

Radio’s strength has always been and continues to be its ability to create a personal connection with a listener. As my radio mentor used to drill into me…”You’re talking to one person…have a conversation with them…’s never “all of you out there in Radioland”.”

Radio is dying. And that saddens me because it’s a great medium. But over the past 10 years, radio has been working hard to eliminate the local touch that it was so good at and automate/jukebox itself to save money.

And now a better way to create that music jukebox has popped up and done a better job at it. Radio needs to return to its strengths with the things that can’t be replicated with today’s digital resources.

But it’s not happening. While younger demographics continue to drop off the radio listening map…the industry doesn’t seem to care. Their main debate right now is over changing the way you listen from analog to digital so that the jukebox sounds better.

Some more info can be found in a few places…
Mark Ramsey has an excellent radio marketing blog
Brother Godin always has something good to say

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Essentially Women Healthcare Conference – HIPAA Info

Thanks for the overwhelming response to my keynote presentation “Healthcare Marketing 101” today at the Essentially Women “Focus on the Future” conference in Lexington.

Several participants came up afterwards and asked for the information that was on my HIPAA slide. (A quick disclaimer…I am not an official “HIPAA consultant”. All marketing concerns that you have related to HIPAA should be discussed with your compliance officer.)

Here’s the info that was on that slide…

    • HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
    • You may not be affected by HIPAA
    • Must have prior written authorization to communicate for marketing purposes except for face-to-face encounters or communications involving promotional gifts (This should be a part of your privacy policy)
    • Items that are not Considered “Marketing” under HIPAA
      –Educational Communications
      –Treatment Options
      –Communications about your products & services
      –General health announcements like health fairs, mammogram reminders, organ donation, etc
    • Cannot sell lists of patients to 3rd parties
    • Bottom Line: No one knows…play it by ear…Ignorance is Bliss

In addition, here is some more in-depth information from the Department for Health and Human Services…

To the extent the disease management or wellness program is operated by the covered entity directly or by a business associate, communications about such programs are not marketing because they are about the covered entity’s own health-related services. So, for example, a hospital’s Wellness Department could start a weight-loss program and send a flyer to all patients seen in the hospital over the past year who meet the definition of obese, even if those individuals were not specifically seen for obesity when they were in the hospital. Moreover, a communication that merely promotes health in a general manner and does not promote a specific product or service from a particular provider does not meet the definition of “marketing.” Such communications may include population-based activities in the areas of health education or disease prevention. Examples of general health promotional material include mailings reminding women to get an annual mammogram; mailings providing information about how to lower cholesterol, new developments in health care (e.g., new diagnostic tools), support groups, organ donation, cancer prevention, and health fairs.
The final Rule requires a covered entity to obtain an individual’s prior written authorization to use his or her protected health information for marketing purposes except for a face-to-face encounter or a communication involving a promotional gift of nominal value. The Department defines marketing to distinguish between the types of communications that are and are not marketing, and makes clear that a covered entity is prohibited from selling lists of patients and enrollees to third parties or from disclosing protected health information to a third party for the marketing activities of the third party, without the individual’s authorization. The Rule clarifies that doctors and other covered entities communicating with patients about treatment options or the covered entity’s own health-related products and services are not considered marketing. For example, health care plans can inform patients of additional health plan coverage and value-added items and services, such as discounts for prescription drugs or eyeglasses.

You can find this along with some other information on a “HIPAA marketing fact sheet” from the federal government here.

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