Monthly Archives: October 2005

Do one thing and do it well

Do one thing and do it well.

It works great for plucky start-ups and companies old enough to know it’s the only way.

It’s the companies in the middle that start reaching for everything and abandoning the core product/service that brought them to the top.

Brand fanatics call this “brand extention”. Brand extention only works to the point that you’re still in the business you started with. Once Taco Bell puts anything on a bun (and they have in the past), it won’t work. Pizza Hut can only truly get away with things involving crust, sauce, and cheese.

Two items in the news…
Walmart is going “upscale“.
Google is putting out a new product about every two weeks.

Good idea?

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Marketing Lies

Monday is Columbus Day…commemorating the date that Christopher Columbus “discovered America”.

I’m sure the Native Americans, Joao Vaz Corte-Real, Leif Ericson, John Cabot, Amerigo Vespucci, and others would debate the validity of that claim. And yet if you ask any person on the street who discovered America, they will respond “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

It’s a lie that has become the truth. It’s a “public lie“. Something everyone knows, but is wrong.

There are lots of group lies that have some basis in truth…
–German Chocolate Cake is named for a man…not the country.
–Everyone didn’t drink the Kool-Aid at Jonestown…it was Flavor-Aid
–Fortune Cookies were invented in America…Chinese people have no idea what they are
–Not all animals went onto the ark in 2s…some went in 7s (the clean animals)

Once a public lie gets into the Collective’s head…nothing will change that perception…not even the truth. Just try to convince someone that Columbus didn’t discover America.

Public lies used to spread slowly. Now, they spread in hours in forwarded e-mail.

This is not such a big issue when dealing with German Chocolate Cake and Columbus, but it’s a big deal when marketing.

Look at comments on or Look at the blog killing of the Kryptonite Lock. The voice of the “crowd” is getting louder and the voice of the “marketing message” is getting dimmer.

And while there is wisdom in crowds, there is also downright stupidity. As a marketer, you MUST control where the crowd is going.

Think about that as you decorate you Columbus tree.

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Dead Presidents

I’m a big fan of an unified graphic look for an organization.

Business cards, letterhead, websites, ads, etc should use the same fonts, colors, and “feel”. Success is achieved when someone can look at a piece and know it came from you even without looking at the name/logo. Even though brand does not equal logo, the essence of the brand is carried through your logo and graphic look.

In a very large organization, when the graphic look changes, it take a little time to integrate it throughout the company. And there’s no larger organization that the US Government.

I don’t like the current redesign trend of US currency.

With the state quarter program, the Sacagawea dollar, the Lewis & Clark nickels, and now a permanent new nickel, it seems the Mint has gone gimmick happy. With all these gimmicks, coinage is losing its unified graphic look.

Paper currency redesign has been better. Most of the redesign in recent years has been driven by the need to thwart counterfeiters rather than gimmicks. And as I said, with such a large organization, the Government is doing it slowly with one denomination at a time.

But what about the one dollar bill?

While the 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 are on the second round of redesigns, dour George is still the same. Why has it not been redesigned with a large portrait/colors/etc to “match” the other currency?

Obviously, criminals who counterfeit dollar bills are doing just for the pleasure of the work since there not a lot of payoff. I’m sure that’s the reason the Treasury isn’t hot to redesign.

In addition….although I’m sure the government isn’t thinking in branding terms… in terms of graphic image, this traditional one dollar bill is used all over the world as the graphical representation of the entire US economy. Changing it would be like McDonalds dumping the golden arches.

BUT the change has begun…and needs to be finished. It’s where marketing policy and fiscal policy meet.


Keep Your Feet on the Ground and Keep Reaching for the Stars

The flow and control of information is different that it used to be.

That thought struck me the other day when I heard part of the “Casey Kasem dead dog” outtake.

If you’ve never heard the infamous Casey Kasem outtake, you really should. Once while recording the American Top40 Countdown, the calm voice of Shaggy (Zoinks, Sckoob!) goes off and curses like a sailor when he comes out of a “fast record” into one of his sappy “request and dedication” pieces about a little dog named Snuggles who has died. It’s morbidly hilarious.

The first time I ever heard the outtake was when I started in radio. At the time, the only place you’d ever hear it was at the radio station because the outtake only existed in the radio underworld. There was always one guy at the station who had a scratchy hissing reel of the outtake. He had made the copy from someone at the last station he worked at…and on and on. Occasionally, he would play it for the other folks at the station (NEVER on the air).

It hit me when I heard it the other day that “the keeper of the Casey Kasem reel” at the station probably doesn’t exist anymore because now ALL of us are that guy. The internet has made everyone a keeper and user of those little hidden things. I just did a Google search for it and it’s all over the web.

The world has changed. If Ryan Seacrest (who now does AT40) goes off on an expletive filled tangent, it will be out in a manner of hours rather than the years of copying reels that Casey’s incident took. Prime current examples are the Chad Myers weather incident on CNN or Jon Stewart on Crossfire.

How does this affect your marketing?

It showcases that if you’re trying to control any type of information and keep things limited, you’re now wasting your time. Everything is now open. All information is now accessible to everyone. Don’t hide your light under a bushel.

Either way, I’m sure Casey Kasem isn’t happy about it.