Monthly Archives: May 2009

the little things

People get excited about and take photos of little bottles of shampoo.

Studies show that tips increase when the diner is given an after-dinner mint and the tip increases even more when the mint is personally handed to the diner by the waitstaff.

Free wi-fi is appreciated (and sometimes abused.)

The little things that you think you can easily cut — are the same things that are making your whole thing tick.

the one where I’m motivational

I think I’ve met this guy and many others very much like him.

When you’re in marketing, people come to you and want you to help them tell others about their crazy ideas. And sometimes, by the time they want to “slap the marketing on“, they’ve already convinced themselves that their idea is a no-brainer home run winner.

And oftentimes, it’s not.

The guys in Seth’s post reminded me of a guy who has pitched a couple of ideas to me. Each time, he spoke in nothing except hyperbole. He had the best legal team. He has the best business plan. And after he uttered one phrase, I stopped listening to him…

“There’s no way that this can fail”.

Well, there’s always a way that something can fail. You may have a great plan that takes care of everything you can control, but there’s no way to accurately predict and plan for thousands of market variables that you have no control over. Even “foolproof” plans don’t account for things like a giant meteor impact destroying all life on the planet. (hyperbole!)

Some entrepreneurs have not only conditioned themselves to believing that their idea is failure-proof, but they also have trained themselves to ignore those who question the idea. The motivational speakers and books will say not to listen to people who say “no” and will trot out stories about Fred Smith getting a C in college when he described his idea for FedEx (which is not true) or Charles Duell, the commissioner of the patent office, saying in 1899 that “everything that can be invented has been” (also not true)

But, in reality, listening to constructive criticism is a good thing and something that you should seek out. If you really believe in your idea and really think it’s impenetrable, then you should encourage others to try to poke holes in it. Some of the most valuable and least appreciated people on your staff are the Devil’s Advocate and Debbie Downer. They’re keeping your feet on the ground while you’re reaching for the stars.

I’m not trying to kill your idea. I have many crazy ideas of my own. I’m lucky to have people around me that tell me to go for it. But I also have people who can see the problems with my line of thinking.

You should be optimistic and be confident in the possibility of your success. And without a doubt, you have to believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one else will. But you should also be pragmatic and work for your success by making your idea as bulletproof as possible.

Just don’t drink your own Kool-Aid. (or Flavor-Aid)

business books at the movies

You know, the movie is never as good as the book.

Seems it’s pretty hard to capture the essence of a fictional (or real life) written story into a screenplay. But what kind of huge challenge would be faced when making a non-fiction business book into a movie?

Apparently, we’re going to find out as Malcolm Gladwell‘s Blink is going to be made into a movie starring Al Pacino. (no joke)

Possible Pacino movie quotes from Blink the movie?
(Scent of a Woman flavored) — “Chah-ley, my boy, in the first five seconds after approaching her table, I knew I would tango with her. Hoo-hah! I’m just gettin’ stah-ted!”
(The Godfather flavored) — “Fredo, don’t thin slice anyone against the Family again.”

I digress.

What if this catches on? What if other business books are adapted to the screen?

In Search of Excellence
by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman
Two dudes travel through time collecting important people from business history for an oral presentation in their MBA program.

Guerrilla Marketing
by Jay Conrad Levinson
In 1972, a crack commando marketing unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as guerrilla marketers. If you have a marketing problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The Guerrilla Marketing Team.

The Wealth of Nations
by Adam Smith
Socialists send a cyborg assassin back in time to kill Adam Smith’s mother.

War in the Boardroom
by Al and Laura Ries
An Army Major is assigned a dozen convicted creatives/marketers to train and lead them to infiltrate an off site meeting of CEOs at a chateau in France.

100 Best Business Books of All Time
by Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten
Kramer tries to convince Elaine to pitch his idea for a “business book about business books” to Mr. Lippman.

The Wisdom of Crowds
by James Surowieki
A tidal wave overturns an ocean liner. People must make the decision to stay put with the majority or follow a ragtag group up through the bowels of the ship.

Purple Cow
by Seth Godin
A spider uses outdoor advertising in a high traffic area on the farm to convince others that a cow is “remarkable” and “some cow”

What are your ideas? What biz book would you like to see made into a movie? Leave them in the comments. Also — bonus points for anyone in the comments who can list the movies/tv shows I’ve based these descriptions on.

bad realtor ads

got a realtor bad adI have expressed my general dislike of poor marketing techniques of local REALTORS® before. (Has the National Association of REALTORS® also registered® the overuse of ALL CAPS®?)

But now there’s a one-stop shop to highlight the worst of the worst. The blog realADtors showcases some real estate ads that probably will remind you of some of the horrible stuff you see everyday. In fact, you can submit bad ads. It’s like the Cake Wrecks of real estate advertising!

(found via jetpacks)

frenzied oprah chickens

finger lickin' goodYou know, it looks like businesses would learn from other companies’ mistakes.

After several big corporations failing to deliver with large scale national freebie giveaways in the last few months, KFC decided to fail larger than anyone with its free grilled chicken giveaway.

Actually, I fully expected KFC to mess this up as soon as I heard they were doing it. (The Colonel has been spinning in his grave for awhile.) But the extent that they have managed to tick off customers and hurt the brand would even impress John Y.

There are reports of KFCs running out of food, local KFC managers refusing to accept the coupon/vouchers, and more.

The Gothamist even had a report of a sit-in/riot at a KFC in NYC…

I went over to our nearest KFC a few minutes ago…and chaos ensued. Despite the very visible grilled chicken behind the register, the manager told everyone with coupons to leave and that the promotion was over for the day. The people there are currently holding a sit-in and refusing to leave until they get their free chicken…or the cops are called. Racial epithets were being spewed, people who actually wanted to pay for chicken were facing a potential beatdown, and the manager ran from the screaming horde. Oprah, what have ye wrought?

There are lessons for all marketers here:
–If you’re doing a mass giveaway through an online channel, you must anticipate the fact that you’ll need additional resources. The first wave of customers getting ticked off wasn’t redeeming these things — it was trying to access and print them online.
–Sampling of a new product is fine. Do it on a local level. This was too much to too many people.
–COMMUNICATION between the marketers and the people on the front lines has to be crystal clear. There also has to be buy-in from the people on the ground. Most of these problems for KFC are coming from individual franchisees (because they’re getting the short end of the stick / chicken bone here)
–When you’re doing a large promotion, think of the worst case scenario and come up with a response before you launch it. Is there a decent probability that your worst case scenario may happen? Don’t do the promotion.
–If you’re going to involve Oprah, expect large results.
–With free food, always expect a mob mentality. It’s a primal need that’s way down in the subconscious.

KFC had already decided to hurt their brand with this extension anyway, even before the problems. (kentucky FRIED chicken shouldn’t be serving GRILLED chicken)

I’m more interested in seeing if this will hurt the Oprah brand — and I think it will.

so bad it’s good

On the local level, small businesses develop their print/broadcast creative for ad campaigns in 1 of 4 ways:

  1. Some entrepreneurs are either creative or stole somebody else’s good idea. (the best ideas are always stolen ideas) These people either have a good marketing head or they hired someone who knew what they’re doing. Some of this local “homemade” advertising is as good (and some is much better) than what would come out of a traditional agency.
  2. Some small businesses waste their marketing money on generic template or spotrunner type ads where they just stick their logo and phone number in a generic ad and then wonder why they get generic results. (If your whole business can be represented by a generic stock photo, then it’s not going to be hard for a competitor to replace you.)
  3. Some let the graphic artist burger flippers down at the radio/tv station or newspaper develop their entire marketing philosophy for them on the assembly line
  4. And then there are the people who have no idea what they’re doing, but still decide to create their own advertising. For me, these have always been like watching car wrecks. It’s horrible, but you can’t look away. In fact, some of these ads are so bad — they’re good…like enjoying a really bad movie.

The comedy duo of Rhett and Link have capitalized on local bad advertising from this 4th group with their “Custom-built, Micro-Budget Commercials for MicroBilt Customers” series. They took a few real small businesses in North Carolina and made a farce out of a farce.

(Update: If you’re reading this through RSS, you may have to click through to the site to see the following videos)

One of the spots, Black and White People Furniture, is getting some buzz because of the racial issue and the simple fact it’s so bizarre.

There are lots of businesses that are the one stop shop like Bobby Dennings:

And the Cuban Gynecologist Auto Salesman is just odd:

Even though these spots are causing the phone to ring for these local businesses, I’m not ready to advocate that you change your tv campaign. But it’s a growing trend for professional marketers to “Astroturf” a grassroots phenomenon both online and in traditional media with a tongue stuck in their cheek.

The key to all marketing, homemade or store-bought, is grabbing attention and keeping that buzz.