Monthly Archives: January 2011

how the brand extension cookie crumbles

There’s a great marketing lesson to be gleaned from recent news about Girl Scout cookies.

Samoa Girl Scout CookieThe Girl Scouts have announced they are downsizing the varieties of cookies they sell to just six flavors. They’ll now just offer Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Trefoils, Samoas, Lemon Chalet Cremes, and Tagalongs.

Why are they doing this? When they looked at the numbers, they saw that just five varieties made up a whopping 77% of total cookie sales.

Girl Scout cookies had been a victim of something that happens to alot of successful brands. They had become bloated with brand extensions. They had over 25 options which meant 20 flavors of cookies just sat there with minimal sales. They had ridden the trend of moment rather that focusing on the core brand by launching cookie flavors geared toward certain demographic groups or healthier options with sugar-free or trans-fat options.

They’re cookies. Cookies are not supposed to be healthy.

Companies can get lost by offering too many brand extensions. A decision to branch out to new products must be considered carefully. While new product offerings can help, it can also dilute the brand. Brands must know what their core brand is all about. When your brand is considering product extensions that don’t fit that mold of the core brand values, you must either make the (major) decision to change the core values of the brand or reject the new offering as something that doesn’t fit.

Had some brands made that simple decision, we would never have seen silly gimmick-of-the-moment flops like McDonald’s Arch Deluxe, Bic Pantyhose, Coors Spring Water, Taco Bell Burgers, Virgin Cola, and more.

It comes down to knowing what your brand represents — and using that perception to your advantage.

4 points to remember as you begin a mobile marketing strategy

If your web strategy just revolves around people sitting behind a desktop or laptop computer, you need to wake up. We’re passing the point where we can say “mobile is coming”. It’s here. The Wall Street reports that

“by 2013 the number of smart phones will surpass PCs, 1.82 billion to 1.78 billion.” Forrester “predicts that 82 million Americans will be using tablets by 2015.” A Pew Research survey reports that “59 percent of Americans accessed the internet on their phones last year, up from 25 percent the previous year.”

But what does a mobile marketing strategy look like? I think there are 4 big points to keep in mind as you’re trying to figure out what to do with mobile:

Beyond phones
It’s not just phones. It’s mobile devices. Just as Apple opened up the market to copycats and a smartphone revolution with the iPhone, a swell of tablet devices to compete with the iPad is just beginning. Now that the industry has finally found a tablet model that works, tablets will bring a quicker death to laptops than email did to faxes.

This is the great sleeping giant of mobile. While most things you can do on a mobile device you can also do on a regular computer, the computer doesn’t know your exact location and can’t move with you. When you take the fact that a device can now adapt the data it provides by taking into account your location, the marketing possibilities are endless. And geolocation goes beyond the hipsters on Foursquare and Gowalla and the masses checking in on Facebook. It’s not just about checking in; it’s about the ability to offer relevant marketing messages near the moment and point of purchase.

qr codeQR Codes (and other scans)
I love QR codes. Using the phone as a scanner provides the opportunity for marketers to track responses to the call-to-action better than ever. If someone scans your QR code, they have self-indentified themselves as an excellent prospect to push down the sales funnel. While QR codes are great, they pale in comparison to things like Google Goggles. Now that people can do a search to find better deals or things they might like better while they’re standing in your store, you’re going to have to change your entire retail strategy.

It’s just starting
In general, we’re going to see mobile users get richer web applications and improved usability as developers write specifically for mobile. Mobile platforms will improve with HTML5. And we’ll see an explosion of the market as people who have been waiting for a Verizon iPhone get one next month.


If you’ve been paying attention, there’s nothing I’ve mentioned in this post that you don’t already know. And even if you don’t follow the tech news as things come down the pike, only the staunchest luddite can’t just look around them with common sense and see how many people are using mobile.

Realistically, if you haven’t already adapted your marketing plan to take advantage of mobile, you’re behind. It’s like someone in the mid-1990s saying “I don’t know if we really need a website right now”. Jumping in and taking advantage of the early part of the adoption curve helps your stance and growth going forward. Why haven’t you started?

moving a blog from blogspot to wordpress

I’m normally just an occasional lurker in the weekly #blogchat on Twitter. But Sunday night’s #blogchat was about changing blogging platforms — a subject that I’ve had intimate experience with. I started blogging in January 2005 on Blogger at and moved the Shotgun Marketing Blog to this self-hosted WordPress platform in February of 2009.

Because I couldn’t get all my points and story across in 140 characters in #blogchat, here are some things you need to consider if you’re going to change blogging platforms:

  • Start where you need to be so you never have to change platforms
    “Way back” in 2005 when I started blogging, I didn’t feel I had the technical know-how to set up a mySQL database, hack out code, and do the other things that were necessary (back then) to setup WordPress. (Looking back, I could have done it.) I really don’t remember why I chose Blogger, but I do remember why I left. I didn’t like the look of a .blogspot URL and Blogger didn’t have many of the features I was wanting. I just started blogging without really understanding the long term commitment I was getting into. You need to look at all platforms and decide which is best for your purposes and make a good decision up front so you never have to move. (And Blogger is a good platform; I still use them for some other blogs)
  • Wait it out
    Blogger upgraded their systems and adopted MANY of the things I was wanting to do in their blogging software shortly after I migrated the blog to WordPress.
  • You WILL lose your rank and previous SEO work
    I knew this before I moved, but I didn’t really realize the depth of how much would go away. Blogger doesn’t allow permanent 301 redirects so FOUR years of my link equity building are gone. Before the move, I was ranked in the 40 / 50 range of the Power 150 ad / marketing bloggers; today I’m in the 400s. My old blogspot address is still listed on old blogrolls of dead blogs that haven’t been updated in years, but search engines still see those links (not weighted as heavily, but still there). Plus people don’t have blogrolls like they used to. As people moved away from blogs to things like Twitter and Facebook, direct inbound links and trackbacks from other blogs became less intense.  All the link power of being on top of the Z-list pyramid was gone. And it’s my fault, too. I haven’t blogged as heavily and consistently as I did in the early years. I already had my business site on so I had inbound links already, but not close to the amount I had on the old blog. Just be prepared to lose your link equity.
  • Your strength is in your followers and subscribers
    I had a lot of RSS subscribersthrough Feedburner. I just switched the source URL in my Feedburner dashboard and boom — all those people came with me and never knew the difference.
  • If you’re going to move, stop thinking about it and do it
    I thought of moving long before I did. While I was thinking, my blogspot became even more entrenched in the Internet. Even to this day, my old blogspot site comes up 3rd on a Google search for Chris Houchens. I keep a basic presence on the old blogspot, just to tell people where I’ve gone.
  • You can’t look back
    I have no regrets about moving. I love WordPress; I can do so much more with it. I love the fact that my business site and blog are intertwined. Two years later, I am slowly, but surely regaining rank power on the blog side. Because even if the old blogspot ranks three on a Google search for my name — this site ranks first.

What about you? Have you moved blogging platforms? What lessons have you learned? I would love to hear from some WordPress experts or SEO experts on what I could have done better.

social media math

This post is not about the numbers. It’s about common sense.

It doesn’t really matter how many followers you have or what your Klout score is — just as long as you’re using those social media channels to engage your target market, drive traffic, make money, or whatever you’re wanting to do with it.


There are currently ALOT of marketing and ad “agencies” who are feeling the traditional crunch and have turned to showing their clients the social media ropes.

The trouble is that, just like the fact that ad agencies don’t know how to maintain a website, advertising agencies also have poor social media presences.

As he has been cyber job stalking, Jetpacks has found several agencies that are AWOL on Twitter

…two “leading” Orlando agencies, or so their sites would have you believe – though I have my doubts about one of them, whose Twitter account hasn’t been updated since October. You can’t really talk about how adept you are in the “social media space” when you don’t use it yourselves.

Realistically, when you’re searching for professional social media help, you do need to look at the numbers and who those numbers represent. If an “agency” only has 198 followers and you subtract their staff, their buddies, their mother, and the spammers, they may only have a few real followers. And yet they are out beating the drums and saying they have all the answers.

Of course, the trouble is that you have people buying cars who don’t know how to drive. People hiring these agencies don’t know how to properly kick the tires to make sure they’re not getting taken. They don’t have the knowledge base to understand they’re hiring someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

This doesn’t affect all agencies. There are several shops who are doing really good work in the social media space and are helping their clients do the same. But there are some agencies who really need to take social off their list of services and outsource it until they understand how to do it themselves. If they don’t, clients will eventually figure it out and the firm will lose all the business.

What do you think?

brand mutiny aboard the Pequod

The basic question is: Do you know this mermaid well enough for her to carry an entire global brand?

starbucks new logo

Even though you may have seen her everyday for the past 40 years, I don’t think anyone has really noticed her. The Starbucks logo is being revamped and she’s the siren(not mermaid) who has quietly sat in the middle of their logo since 1971. But she’s now front and center. And alone without the words “starbucks” or “coffee”.

It’s a fact that logos need to be updated (or you’d still be looking at the nipples on the original woodcut version of the Siren while sipping a Caramel Macchiato).

starbucks logo evolution

But logo evolution, like all forms of brand evolution, needs to be a very slow and incremental process. I can see dropping the “coffee” out of the logo; but not the “Starbucks”. After all, Starbucks customers don’t go there for the coffee. They go there for the CUP.

In any case, it’s a treacherous time to be messing with a logo. (just ask GAP).