Monthly Archives: March 2008

is he dead or did he invent the turducken?

It was just the other day I was having a conversation with someone about Paul Prudhomme. I don’t remember the specifics of the conversation (or even who I was having it with), but at one point the question came up whether Prudhomme was even still alive.

Actually, Prudhomme is still kicking and extremely successful (when he’s not dodging bullets). You just don’t hear from him that often (except when he’s dodging bullets).

Sidenote: Most interesting line in Prudhomme’s wikipedia entry is:
Dom DeLuise is sometimes confused for Prudhomme. Both have a similar body shape and enjoy cooking. They both often wear “newsboy”-style cloth caps and beards.
Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls.

But I do remember my conversation involved the over-saturation of another Nola celebrity chef – Emeril Lagasse. There’s really no doubt that Emeril is still alive. He’s everywhere. Cooking on a morning show. Bam! On a talk show. Bam! On a grocery shelf. Bam! In Vegas. Bam! Etc. Bam! Etc. Bam! Bam! Bam!

It’s easy to think that mass attention and mass exposure means marketing success. And in many cases, it does.

But true long term success does not involve 24/7 exposure. It involves dedicated followers.

The great unwashed masses will latch onto anything for awhile if it has sufficient exposure in the culture. And they’ll forget it just as quickly as the next thing comes along. Long term successes are built on the following of a dedicated few that truly believe in the product/person and spread the word.

To use a cooking analogy — While Emeril is sprinkling Essence™ on the entire surface, Prudhomme has been deep injecting a marinade into certain areas of the carcass.

Stop trying to get everybody. You can’t. There’s not enough time, money or attention.
Find a group of dedicated followers and be a huge success with them. Who cares if the rest of the world thinks you’re dead?

results rather than messages

Two true stories that make a point…

Last week, a media property I work with was being pitched a service from a major web company — a company you’ve probably used today. We were fairly sure we wanted the service even before the pitch. We just had a few questions. During the presentation, the WebEx went a little screwy and we couldn’t see the guy’s Powerpoint. No big deal for us as our questions had been answered on the call. We were ready to sign a contract.

But the guy didn’t want us to sign a contract. He wanted to show us a Powerpoint. In fact, he said he needed to FedEx the printout of the slides before he sent us the contract. Nothing striking on those slides — just a bunch of screenshots.

My wife is working on a project for the Commonwealth (come experience our unbridled whatever). A part of this project involved a two-day training session earlier this month. But because of a snowstorm, she as unable to make it to the training that was 2.5 hours away. No problem. Someone from the state was in town last week and she went over everything that my wife needed to know in about an hour. In other words, two-days condensed down to an hour.

The Point
A part of these two stories can be attributed to the fact that most organizations are in love with unnecessary meetings and powerpoints. But the bigger point is something you’ve probably noticed in individuals already. People love to hear themselves talk. And they love it even more when it’s formalized in a ppt file or a meeting that can be stretched for a few days.

And it’s even worse when it comes to marketing. From the local car dealer and mattress salesman who throw away ad dollars just for ego-inflation to the CEO who’s convinced he’s the only one that can talk to the consumer, people see the MESSAGE of the marketing rather than the RESULTS.

Just because you see motion doesn’t mean something is moving.

tweet checks

You’ve probably already heard about the Zuckerberg interview fiasco at SXSW. If not, here’s a good overview and Jarvis has some insight.

After spending years in marketing and media, I’ve learned a few things that are showcased in this particular incident:
1) Every interviewer has an agenda. And every interviewee needs a plan. Sure, they’re going to ask you questions. You just give the answers that you want to get across. Politicians do this too well.
2) In most interviews, journalists already have most of the story written and just need some quotes to fill in the holes. You may have to slap them around (figuratively, of course) –but make sure that they’re getting your story right.
3) Most interviewers don’t listen to what you’re saying.
4) Don’t ever tweet in anger.
5) The audience has always controlled the conversation. If you insulted them in the old days, they canceled their subscription or changed the channel. Now they bite back.

I don’t think people realize how much communication has changed. We’ve all been in a conference where someone was doing something stupid on stage. Everyone winced individually and went on to the next session. Maybe later in the exhibit hall or somewhere else did the WOM occur that negated the presentation. It now happens in real time. You can have an angry mob on your hands and not realize it. Presenters often have a person in the audience who watches their time or body language. You now need a plant to give you cues on the meta-conversation and how the natives are feeling.

People get freaked out when this social conversation happens in a microcosm like a conference so you can actually see it. But this is happening everyday. Not everyone is in the same room. But when your company, you’re media outlet, your celebrity, your politician, or your product messes up, everyone is out there talking about it to each other.

And 99.999% of companies are doing what this interviewer did. They say I’m giving you what I think you need instead of what you’re telling me you want.

double half caff

Earlier this week, Advertising Age quoted me in an article on some comments I made about Starbucks shutting down over 7,000 locations one night in late February for a barista boot camp.
It’s now old news, but let me clarify and expand upon my original comment — and provide some updates.

First off, it’s obvious that the shutdown was not “training”. It was nothing but a PR/media stunt. It garnered LOTS of free coverage from the press who seemed not to realize they were being used.

I had said in my original comments that I would be interested when baristas started spilling the beans (ha!) about what went on during the 3 hour period. Just as I predicted, customer service was discussed during the training as well as how to make a machine produce three dollar foam. But some baristas are ticked off about the training and point to poor working conditions and wages as a reason for sub-par customer service and not-so-perfect drinks.

But here’s your big problem, SBUX. Customers aren’t finding any big difference. And that is a huge problem. After pulling a stunt that showcases how you’re going to improve, people expect…improvement. When it doesn’t show up, you’ve ultimately hurt the brand.

look at me!!!

So Firebrand failed. That’s amazing. Hard to believe that people don’t want to watch a show or web channel that has nothing but ads.

In several of my marketing talks, I make the implicit point that no one cares about your marketing except you. And the only people who actually look for ads are the people paying for them and the people who sell them.

But for some reason, many companies feel that their advertising is an entertainment source. Visit a company’s web site and see a big flashy-blinky that says “Click to view our latest TV commercial!” Companies upload their spot to the Google Tubes and think they’re offering substance. Of course, you know the idea du jour. Stagger in like a greasy used care salesman in a blog, try to be my “friend” on Facebook, or crash some other private party.

Sure, people are interested in advertising and become ad experts around the time of the “big game”. But for the most part, people try to avoid “advertising”. What people want is answers to their problems. And sometimes advertising shows them an answer. But most advertising I see is undirected and loud — and not really concerned about connecting with the right people.

Stop advertising and start providing answers to your customers’ problems. And you might have to do that through a print ad or a TV spot. Just remember that people are concerned about the message — not the messenger.