Monthly Archives: March 2006

Paving Cowpaths

AdJab reports that Chevy is having trouble with some consumer created content for the Chevy Tahoe.

Users were given some audio and video collateral to work with and given the opportunity to piece them together as they saw fit. Well I don’t think they quite anticipated what might result from giving the kids the keys to the car, so to speak. At least three examples have been found of ads that use the Tahoe as background for rants against the war in Iraq, the dependence of the U.S. on foreign oil and more.


Consumer generated content because people are fans is fabulous news for any company. As happens more often than not though is that the company tries to pull more golden eggs out of the goose than they should….and the goose bites back.

Corporate marketers are seeing what is happening now that the old media barriers are coming down. They’re trying to get in on it and shove it into the traditional forms. What comes out is stuff like Captain Morgan’s blog and this.

Don’t try to herd the cattle. Pave the cowpaths.


That Smarts

The Mensa brand is getting beat up right now.

Mensa, of course, is “that thing for smart people”. In the Ries branding example of “owning” words…Mensa owns the word “smart”. If someone is a member of Mensa, then you probably naturally assume that they are very intelligent.

But you may be having doubts about Mensa after watching this season of The Apprentice. One of the contestants, Tarek, is a card-carrying member of Mensa. From the start of this season, it’s the one peg that he has always hung his hat on.

The trouble is he doesn’t seem very smart. He is the classic example of a person with lots of “book smarts” with absolutely no common sense. In addition, he seems to have absolutely no people/social skills and is a bit spiteful. Add his unlikable personality to comments from Trump like…”Did you take your test?” and “I think the Mensa people should change the test because there’s something wrong”…and Mensa doesn’t seem like such a positive thing to be a part of.

I haven’t seen any response from the Mensa organization about Tarek’s apprearance on the show. Their strategy is probably to hang low and hope he gets fired soon. That’s what a lot of companies do when their brand is attacked…and it’s the wrong thing to do.

The brand is changing while you’re waiting. In this instance, I already equate Mensa with “tarek from the apprentice”. That branding is now a part of my worldview…and always will be until something comes along to change it.

You should be pro-active when dealing with brand attacks. Mensa should be doing damage control by trying to define the conversation. They should put some of the more outgoing and interesting members out in the spotlight…showcasing them on the locally produced shows of NBC affiliates…making local appearances…doing anything except just sitting there.

It’s important to remember that you don’t always have complete control of your brand image. The actual “brand” is developed in the minds of the masses where you have no control…but you do have influence…so do something to influence your brand whether you’re in trouble or not.


Your Account is Currently Overdue

This is a marketing sin that is primarily committed by healthcare organizations, but any company can be dumb enough to do it.

With an infant in the house, we have quite a few medical bills in the mailbox. Here’s a typical situation: We take the boy for something medical in January. In March, we get the first bill from the healthcare provider. On the bill, the amount we owe is in the “60 days overdue” box, and there’s a memo stating that our “account is overdue. Please pay the full amount soon.”…(which is invoice code for “you’re a deadbeat who won’t pay the bill”.)

Frankly, it ticks me off everytime. How can the first bill I get from someone already be 60 days overdue?

Of course, I work with marketing in the healthcare industry all the time…so I know what’s happening. The billing people have waited to send me a bill while waiting to see what our health insurance will pay. After insurance does what it’s going to do, they send me a bill for my part. Insurance companies aren’t known for their speed…so it could be a couple of months before it’s “my turn’ to pay.

I’m sure on the top floors of the hospital that the healthcare marketing people can’t figure out why people aren’t latching onto the brand. Here’s why: It’s because while the marketing department is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on feel-good-generic-ads that tell me why they’re my hometown/personal/friendly/etc healthcare choice….the billing department is spending 39 cents to call me a deadbeat loser who won’t pay his bills.

Guess which message gets through to me the best?…The one with my personalized name and address.

Here’s the thing. Stuff like this happens all the time. The marketing folks are sending out one message while another part of the organization is sending out another. It could be billing. It could be the person at the reception desk. It could be on the Internet. It could be ANYWHERE that your customer has contact with your organization.

Like this billing problem, it’s probably easily fixed, but it keeps happening everyday. The bigger the organization, the more times it’s happening….and it’s slowly killing your brand.

Marketing is not just a department. It should be built into every touchpoint you have with the consumer.


Apprentice ppt

Here’s a Columbo “oh yeah, one more thing” post….

While at lunch, I remembered there was another point I wanted to make in my Apprentice Marketing post. (I need to start taking notes while watching TV)

Point 4) – If you have nothing to say…then say nothing. Don’t create a Powerpoint to convey that nothingness.

Not that I would ever wish to be Donald Trump…but while sitting in numerous bad Powerpoint presentations, I have wished for the ability he showed last night to tell the bad presenter…”Is this really necessary?…Just sit down!”

A much more effective communication strategy was shown by the other team with the simple prop of the baby carriage…(after all, Charmaine is a WKU Communications grad.)


Apprentice Marketing

I thought there might not be any teachable moments in marketing with this season of The Apprentice. But then last night, the tide changed with 3 good marketing points.

1) I preach to clients and speaking audiences all the time about one of the most recurrent marketing sins that I see…the novel on a billboard. With a billboard, you get one thought and one thought only. It has to be straightforward and so simple that a child could comprehend it without thinking. What you see so many times are billboards and other outdoor media that have the old mentality of “we paid for this space so we need to use all of it“.

2) While designing their losing billboard, Andrea said…”Well, I do most of the graphic design for my company.” At that point, I thought she’d grab Quark and get busy. But instead, she sat behind the graphic artist, pointed at the screen, and said things like “more colors” and “more fonts”. That’s not graphic layout. That’s micro-managing someone who knows more than you do.

3) Anytime you get 3 or more people get together to design an ad, it’s a disaster. Marketing by committee is always a losing proposition.

Bonus Point 4) People from KY are both empathic and strong leaders. Way to go, Charmaine.


Healthcare Marketing

I’m quoted several times in an article in the March 2006 issue of Orthopedics Today. While the article is part of a year long series dealing with how to market an orthopedic practice, the information can be used in any healthcare organization. This March installment deals with using marketing research and analysis on the front end of a marketing campaign. Read the article here.

My best quote from the article – “If you’re a cardiologist, Krispy Kreme is your competitor.”
My worst? – “A lot of it is just a gut check”

A reminder that healthcare marketing is one of my emphasis areas in both speaking and marketing projects. If you hire me, I promise that I’ll try not to use the term “gut check” anymore.


Surreal Spring Break Marketing

When these kids get back from Spring Break and develop their pictures, will it still seem like an alcohol/drug induced surreal hallucination?

The only thing odder would have been for the Subservient Chicken to be in the photos as well.

Burger King’s Spring Break promotion has a website to document the oddness.


Decaf Venti Amplification and Clarification with Foam

I wanted to clarify and add to my McDonalds “premium” post after something I saw on the news this morning. The focus of the story was that McDonalds is going after the morning coffee market now firmly held by Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

The talking head from McDonalds’ marketing department was listing the reasons why the new “premium” coffee was better than competitors:: They have a “special bold blend…how studies show that people get their morning coffee to go (perfect for drive-throughs)…and that they had more retail locations for customer convenience. On paper, these are all good reasons to get into the coffee market and expect to win. However, consumers don’t buy things in a marketing analysis. They buy them in the real world.

So what will happen in the real world? When it began in Seattle, Starbucks was all about the coffee….and only the coffee. The customers were coffee fanatics that could taste the subtle differences in different coffees. And some of those people still come to Starbucks.

But most of Starbucks’ customers now go there to announce to the world the following statement about themselves:

“I just paid $2 more for a cup of coffee than I needed to. I must be affluent (or at least doing OK). I am also worldly and hip because I have conveyed my coffee needs to a barista this morning. Look at the cup that I drink from and draw your own conclusions!”

90% of Starbucks’ customers don’t go there for the coffee. They go there for the CUP.


Gaping Hat Tip

Thanks to Hugh for the “Hat Tip“. It’s an honor to be called out by such a great blogger.

If you’re coming from GapingVoid (or anywhere for that matter) and visiting Shotgun for the first time and need to catch up…I might direct you to my best posts of 2005. And there’s been good stuff this year too that you can scroll down and check out, especially this.


You see, Marketing is alot like an NCAA Bracket

It’s the time of year when office copiers are made into illegal gambling machines. These copiers spit out the infamous NCAA brackets, those copies are passed around the office, and everyone has a chance until the first tipoff.

Something I’ve always noticed about these friendly gambling pools are the types of players:
1) The non-sports fans who maybe haven’t seen one college game all year. Their choices are determined by the rankings and records printed on the brackets and the interesting-ness of the school names. (Go Gonzaga!)
2) The die-hard fans who deeply analyze stats and put in three hours of research for each pick.

The odd thing is, each type of player seems to win about half the time. Businesses sometimes conduct their Marketing in the same way that people fill out NCAA brackets.

NCAA Bracket – Filling out a bracket doesn’t necessarily mean that you know what you’re doing
MARKETING – Placing an ad in the paper or a spot on the TV/radio doesn’t necessarily mean that you are marketing.

NCAA Bracket – Luck sometimes gets you as far as the stats do
MARKETING – Marketing research is only good to a point. There comes a time when you have to make decisions based solely on your knowledge of the market.

NCAA Bracket – Deep statisical research and obsessing over each choice in the 1st round makes your Final Four picks worse.
MARKETING – What is the final goal of your marketing? Are your early decisions positively influencing this final goal?

NCAA Bracket – Each year, a “Cinderella story” team overcomes the odds and wins in the first round. Conversely, a top pick sometimes falters and loses early on. Both these scenarios throw off everyone’s brackets.
MARKETING – Marketing must evolve with market changes and surprises. Brackets can’t be adjusted after the first tipoff…your marketing plan can.

NCAA Bracket – Previous office pool winners (either non-fans or die-hards) will double their bets next year thinking their old picking style will work again. Usually, they lose the second time because the teams have changed
MARKETING – The marketing plan that worked last month will not work this month because the market is constantly changing.

NCAA Bracket – After you fill out the bracket, pay into the pot, and tape your bracket to the wall, you no longer have any control. The teams will make or break you.
MARKETING – You can develop a great marketing plan and set it into motion, but in the end, it’s your good/bad choices and the mindset of the market that will determine how it turns out.

This is an inexact analogy…(and forgive me for including a sports analogy)…but I’m sure there are more lessons to be learned here. Anyone have any ideas?