Monthly Archives: September 2006

Macy’s Anne McDonald

Avid Shotgun Marketing Blog reader, Mark, forwarded me this Ad Age article and video link to an interview with new Macy’s CMO Anne McDonald and wondered what my thoughts are…

First off, just in general, I think Federated Department Stores applying the Macy’s name across all their stores is a double edged sword. On one hand, I admire the efficiency of it…One creative message with the ability to use national media. They’ll be able to make the marketing dollars go alot farther. On the other hand, they’ve “killed” some powerful long standing local brands…the king of those being Marshall Fields. It will be a long time before some of those local consumers “forgive” them for taking away a familiar brand…and it will take a long time for those same consumers to accept the Macy’s branding. Remember, brands are built from the bottom-up…not top-down. Overall, it will take them a long time to recover from their “efficiency”.

As to the interview with Anne… I’m very impressed with her. She seems to have a firm grasp of some of the “big ideas” of good marketing.
1) I love the fact that she is proud that she “has no experience” with retail marketing. Being able to apply new ideas from other industries and not being stuck in the rut of the “way we’ve always done it” is a HUGE advantage in marketing.

2) She’s one of the few marketing people who seems to understand the relationship between business and marketing. She makes the point that I make ALL the time that marketing is usually the 2nd biggest expense after HR. The marketing dept must make itself relevant to the bottom line…..”If you don’t understand how the company makes money…then you are an expense.” She also makes a good point of making sure you partner with the CFO so they can see how marketing contributes to revenue.

3) And it’s not just financials…She makes a good point about not falling in love with the creative aspects when trying to pitch marketing to the rest of the company and to just deal with the fact because the appeal of the creative will always be subjective. I’ve seen many great marketing “plans” die because a few of the biggies didn’t like”an ad“. She says always discuss the facts, the business, and the results…and then people won’t be discussing the ads.


Suicide Attempts at 10 2 and 4

You can pay a lot of money to have your logo placed everywhere.

Even in places where you have no control over how your brand is presented.

Sometimes you can stay top of mind with a strategy like that.

And sometimes you’re associated with suicide denials.

Who says there’s no such thing as bad press?


Me and Matlock in the hospital

WARNING:: Don’t read this if you get nauseous easily.

I believe! Tom Peters. (!) The healthcare system is broken. And not just for the obvious reasons…

A bit of background to for you to fully see the foul mood I’m in…

On Monday night after supper, I became violently ill. Not just a mild sickness, mind you…but a full blown “wishing-my-gastrointestinal-system-wasn’t-part-of-my-body-oh-yeah-that-is-what-I-had-for-lunch-I’m-going-to-sue-the-restaurant-that-made-me-this-sick” kind of illness. After a night spent on my knees in front of the porcelain mercy seat, I felt well enough to work on Tuesday. About noon, I started shivering like I had never shivered before (on an 80 degree day anyway). I couldn’t stop. It was disconcerting and I felt horrible. So I headed to the nearest ER. I did not find George Clooney there.

I was shivering so much that I couldn’t fill out the intake form legibly. The check-in “guy” didn’t offer any assistance. He did shove me into a wheelchair and pushed me over to the wall out of the way. After about 15-20 minutes, I was taken (pushed) to “triage” where two nurses actually offered me a blanket and attempted to find out my history. They quickly pushed me to the financial desk where I told my entire life history and all my vital numbers to a woman between dry heaves.

I then was pushed to the middle of the waiting room…where I sat in my wheelchair while hearing parts of one and a half episodes of Matlock, an episode of Little House on the Prairie, and about 15 minutes of Ellen Degeneres (that’s about 2 hours and 45 minutes for you non-TV junkies). Also during this time, the hospital’s intercom had the following message playing about every 15 minutes “Because of above average patient volume, your waiting time may be longer than usual”

Thoughts running through my mind at this time…
–I’m going to be like that woman in the wheelchair at the NOLA convention center
–Those people in that chair don’t look that sick…I bet I go back before them.
–I bet they play the “above average” message all the time…I need to come back and check
–Those people in that chair don’t look that sick…I bet I go back before them.
–Matlock needs to figure out who killed Laura and Paw. Maybe it was Ellen.
–Those people in that chair don’t look that sick…I bet I go back before them.
–This will be blogged.

My wife arrived at the hospital (after arranging childcare for the boy and driving from a town 30 miles away) and we finally went back where I was poked and prodded. “Cultures” were taken. And I was given a shot that knocked me out from 5pm to 7am the next morning.

I feel better now. Thanks.

But here’s the thing. This morning and a few times today, I saw some advertising for the hospital. Actually, they “market” the hospital quite a bit. They talked alot about their customer service in the ads and how good they are for the community and their patients.


Like I said the other day with another much less serious failure of customer service, good operations and taking care of the customer are the best marketing you can do. How about plowing some of that marketing money into some OT for a doc when “above average patient volume” hits? How about realizing that your customers in a healthcare setting are already not happy because of their conditions and doing everything above and beyond? What about just being treated the way you would want to be treated.

Medical and healthcare providers HAVE to stop thinking about patients and need to start thinking about customers (which I have said before and before)

Now obviously, I wasn’t having a heart attack or didn’t have a severed limb, so you may think I’m overreacting. But in those cases…you don’t really make the healthcare choice…the ambulance driver makes it for you. The majority of healthcare decisions are made by a thinking consumer. And I think, I will make a different choice the next time.


World Tea Expo

One of the neat things I love about delivering marketing keynotes and presentations across the country is the variety of disciplines, industries, and people I get to meet. At a meeting, I get to “be a part” of an industry that I may have never experienced before. I’m looking forward to a meeting next year that I’m sure I will enjoy.

I’ve been asked to deliver a marketing presentation at the 2nd annual World Tea Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA on June 10th at 11:00am.

I’ll be discussing building a marketing plan for the US and international visitors at the expo. If you’re into “tea”, make plans now to attend. The World Tea Expo is the largest trade-only conference in the world showcasing tea and tea-related products. Registration starts in November and I’ll also have a more detailed synopsis of my talk.



I had a horrible lunch today.

It was the type of small bakery/sandwich shop that we like to go to. There’s always one or two in every town….located in a reclaimed-refurbished building in the older part of town….mismatched furniture…lots of funky local art…interesting people sitting around….freaky spaced-out employees…etc

But today…we stood behind three other people waiting to place orders while the employees stared at all of us from the kitchen.

Finally, I ordered the Cuban sandwich and soup. (It was on the menu) “We stopped serving the Cuban a couple months ago.”….I was told.

I decided not to get a beverage because I would be charged for a refill of iced tea…quite possibly the cheapest beverage to produce and make a profit off of. The cooler of other drinks was nearly empty.

When we went into the dining area, I started to get the highchair for the boy. I left it because it was broken and was “sticky”. He sat on the tabletop.

The wife’s kettle chips and cookie were left in an undisclosed location and had to be searched for by the girl who brought the food to the table.

Her asiago chicken sandwich was missing the chipolte mayo…and oddly, the asiago cheese.

Of my soup and sandwich…the soup was cold. The roast pork sandwich on focaccia (I thought it would be a decent substitution) came out as a “Julia” which was hummus, artichoke hearts, sprouts, etc. I ate it while the pork came out.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Meanwhile, Bowling Green is getting a Panera Bread over in the corporate-mall-generic-no-personality-mall-big-box part of town.

The people won’t be as interesting. There will be no community connection. The employees may be slackers….but they’ll be fired if they slack too much.

But, they’ll (probably) get my order right. The right ingredients will be on my sandwich. I’ll actually have the right sandwich. They’ll give me a “bonus” of some bread (or at least crackers) when I order soup. And it will be hot. I’ll drink as much iced tea as I want for one price. The highchairs will be clean. It will be a “safe” place to eat. And it will get many more customers than the local downtown establishment.

The marketing question is this….why can’t we have both? Why can’t the community place get the SOP right? And why can’t the chain be interesting?

Operations IS marketing…..and you have to build marketing INTO your operations.



One of my marketing areas of concentration is healthcare marketing. I have several healthcare clients and several of my keynotes are focused on healthcare markeitng. One of the big things that healthcare marketers are in the dark about right now is how to market under HIPAA, the federal privacy law that went into effect back in 2003.

Last spring, a national healthcare publisher hired me to co-author a book about the challenges and opportunities presented to healthcare marketers under the federal HIPAA regulations. And now, after months of work, my co-author, Kate Borten, and I are proud to announce the publication of: (drumroll)Healthcare marketing Hipaa book

A Marketer’s Guide to HIPAA
Resources for Creating Effective and Compliant Marketing

This book is a great resource for healthcare marketers and should be a part of the toolkit of all healthcare practices. Kate and I give a basic breakdown of the parts of the Privacy and Security Rule that are pertinent to healthcare marketers. We attempted to write the book in practical, easy-to-understand language and included lots of “real world” scenarios. We offer a breakdown of what HIPAA permits, and the conditions it imposes for using patient information in marketing initiatives. Overall, the book explains the parts of HIPAA a healthcare marketer needs to be aware of, and gives concrete examples of effective marketing practices that use valuable patient data, but that steer clear of HIPAA violations.

Obviously, I contributed most of the healthcare marketing content. As to the legal HIPAA side of the equation, my co-author, Kate Borten, is a nationally recognized expert and frequent speaker on the topics of HIPAA and health information privacy and security. During the writing of the book, I was continually impressed with the depth of Kate’s knowledge of HIPAA. I think you’ll be equally impressed.

To order the book, you can visit

***ALSO*** I know that some of you participated in the “Marketing under HIPAA: Patient data and the law” webinar that Kate and I presented in August. This book is a great companion to that webcast. It gets much deeper into the material than we were able to with the seminar.

I have also added a version of the HIPAA webinar to my speaking topics. It’s a good addition to the other healthcare topics that I can present to your conference or meeting.


Not playing with a full deck

WARNING: This post has more to do with marketing bloggers than with marketing…

I played football from the time I was in 5th grade until I was a sophomore in High School. In additon, I coached a Little League football team for 6 years. Today, football is about the only sport I watch on TV.

So it was with excitement that I accepted the invitation to join the Yahoo! Sports “Marketing Bloggers Fantasy Football League” that is run by Commish John “Tagliabue” Moore over at Brand Autopsy.

It’s the first time I have ever participated in a Fantasy Football League. So after figuring out the system, I go into the Fantasy dashboard and start developing strategy for Team Shotgun Marketing. I thought I had a pretty good shot going into this weekend. I was wrong.

Apparently, I messed something up….because during the games, I only had a few men “on the field”. Everyone else was benched. As a result, I’m dead last in the rankings.


When I was coaching Little League, it was a constant stuggle counting how many of the kids were on the field. We ran plays with 10 players sometimes and slipped by the officials several times with 12 (or 13) while the kids figured out if they were supposed to be on the field. It’s good to know I’m back on the Little League level with the my Fantasy skill level.

I’m going to try and figure out this new fangled computer stuff. And maybe we’ll rally next weekend.


Hummer Escape

I have such a cynical advertising eye that rarely does an ad impress me on first view. It happened tonight while watching NBC’s Sunday Night football.

Sure, I don’t know if any of these guys actually make enough to afford a Hummer (or even the gas for one). But the ad is something that you don’t see very often anymore…entertaining creative that actually delivers an advertising message.



I just wrapped up 2 exciting action-packed days of analyzing data from a survey. Between walking around bleary-eyed with Excel speadsheets imprinted on my retinas, I noticed something.

The concept of the survey was for people to answer (open-response) what their top preferences were in defined business categories in a certain geographic area.

While most respondants gave a clear answer, there were several of these…
–“that place over on main street”
–“that restaurant over on Samsville Road”

And even out of those respondants who could name a business…several were misspelled, not exactly the right name, or corrupted in some other way.

Remember, these people are saying this business is their “favorite”. They are self-professed “fans” of this establishment. And yet, some of them can’t properly tell me what it is.

These are the same people that are now being recruited by businesses to be “buzz marketers”, “viral marketers”, “citizen marketers” and whatever other name we can come up with.

Back in the day, if you hired a “spokesperson” and they couldn’t get your name right in the commercials, you’d have fired them. Now you’ve got people you’re encouraging to create marketing content about your business and to spread it. And you can’t fire them. How do you make sure they’re sending the message you want them to?

You can’t. Word of mouth has always been corruptable and always will be. Try to provide the tools that your self-professed fans need to spread the message. The best you can do is to have a strong brand strategy to make sure that your base knows “the story”….and that they at least get your name right.


Caffeinated Promises

There’s the old adage that “if you don’t take care of your customers…someone else will”. That now seems to be the case after Starbucks reneged on an iced coffee internet coupon.

As always, when you drop the ball, someone is there to immediately pick it up. Caribou Coffee has announced they will accept the Starbucks coupons for a set timeframe this Friday afternoon.

Aside from the fact that Starbucks shouldn’t be in the coupon business (if you can lay out $3 for a cup of coffee…you’re not a coupon clipper), this shows a deeper truth about marketing. Honor your promises to the customers. Even if that “promise” wasn’t exactly what you meant or got a little out of hand, if it won’t bankrupt you….follow through. Or else a bunch of your customers might be checking out a competitor this Friday afternoon.