Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Some people say that you can learn a lot about someone by how they respond to adversity. Adversity doesn't build character but it reveals it.

However, I think you can learn even more about ones' character by how they handle power.

Maybe that should be the scope we use.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

I want to thank everyone for reading my blog and participating in the conversation. I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a very wonderful and prosperous new year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Follow Up

I just came across this article on Adweek that's a follow up to my last post- "How much sex can your brand sell?"

Editors Note: I am following up my follow up with and edit here, because it just further proves my point.

Kraft recently debuted a billboard for it's Shake n' Bake brand with copy that read: You look smashing... but your chicken breasts could use a lift.

Again, I'm not offended and I think it's funny. But my point is that if your Kraft why even go there?

Enjoy. Again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How much sex can your brand sell?

Sexual references have been made in advertising for a long time. You could even argue it's a common practice, but until recently, the references were relatively tame. However, that seems to be changing for some- and not Trojan condoms, Viagra or even Victoria Secret- but brands with no business in the bedroom at all.

Beer marketers have long hinted at sexuality to sell its brews. However, Bud Light has turned up the innuendo to a level that leaves a bad taste in the viewers' mouth. In two of their "Tailgate Approved" ads Jimmy Football asks if you "ever have trouble putting on a condiment" and tells you that your tailgate needs more "tail."

Not to be outdone, Burger King dismissed all subtlety with this ad for it's BK Super Seven Incher. But they weren't done. They followed up their popular "Subservient Chicken" website with a U.K. version called "Subservient Shower Girl." The website lets users watch a bikini wearing 20 something sing in the shower every morning at 9:30am. Users can requests songs and pick the bikini's she will wear.

Then there is PepsiCo's Amp Energy drink brand. It recently unveiled it's new downloadable Iphone application called "Amp Up Before You Score." It's a guide that gives you tips on how to hook up with 24 different stereotypes of women. Punk rocker chick? Got it. Sorority girl? Check. Married women? You bet. To top it off you can share your experiences on your "brag list" with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

It's should be obvious that these brand messages in bad taste. However, there may be some justice served when "bad" and "taste" is what we will associate with Bud Light, Burger King, and Amp Energy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm Still Waiting

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the Kodak Zi8 naming contest. Here's a short video about Kodak and the contest.

The contest was a great example of the right way to use social media. Engage the consumer, don't just talk directly at them.

And yes, I'm still waiting to hear that my name won.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm Speechless

On Monday, I returned home from Christmas shopping and grabbed the mail out of my mailbox. I quickly glanced through it but didn't see anything interesting. As I'm throwing out the junk, my eye catches a direct mail piece from Old Country Buffet.

What did I see? It wasn't a picture of delicious food or a coupon offering a deal that was just too good to pass up. It was their slogan: "Whadja Get?"

I couldn't believe my eyes. They actually printed that. It's on everything. Don't believe me? I understand we are living in an age of constant "lol's" and "omg's!" but there is a line and the "OCB" crossed it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hold On, Let Me Check

If you have ever purchased a car from a dealer then you have almost certainly heard this phrase before: "Hold on, I'll have to check on that."

It's said so often that customers expect it. The salesperson goes in back to "check with the boss" while you wait.

In theory it may be "negotiating" but in practice it becomes gamesmanship with the customer. Obviously not an enjoyable experience.

Then why is this ill-fated tactic practiced so widely?

Simple: a lack of innovation and marketing perspective. No surprise from an industry that shares a single brain. Why do you think that salesperson is always checking with their supervisor?

Hire leaders who can learn to make decisions for themselves? No thanks. We follow a formula. Here group think goes by a different name: best practices.

People have tried to fight this. Saturn once build a reliable, inexpensive small car then combined it with no-haggle pricing. It was a great position that was a huge hit for car buyers. Car buying became more than just a necessary evil.

Unfortunately, the visionary leaders were replaced by experienced group thinkers and the Saturn brand lost focus then faded into the herd.

Chances are that you have anticipated a negative experience but still made a purchase because you had to. These companies are taking big risks. If people keep buying, they will assume nothing is wrong.

Until an innovation is made; creating a product or service that people don't just need, but one they love.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Personal "Branding" Rules

With so many digital alter egos occupying the social networking universe, the subject of personal branding has become a hot topic. I've discussed this topic on here in passing a couple times but never at length.

Frankly, I am a skeptic to the idea. You cannot have a real relationship with a Facebook profile. There must be a connection deeper than just a friend request or a follow (you know, like a real live friend, colleague or classmate) to have a real relationship.

However, I do believe the way we behave online will have consequences both on and offline. Here is a nice article about the general rules for behaving in online social circles.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish all my wonderful readers a Happy Thanksgiving.  You are definitely something I am very thankful for.

Monday, November 23, 2009

O is for Outta Here!

Last week, some pretty big news fell from the sky in the world of marketing; and it had nothing to do with vampires or the equally scary black Friday shoppers.

Oprah announced that she is leaving her show…eventually. On Friday, Oprah put in her 20-month notice on her landmark daytime talk show.

The network executives at ABC will need every second to find a replacement show that has even a tenth of the reach and magnitude of Oprah. Unfortunately, they will try and almost certainly will fail.

The primary reason for this is that Oprah is an original. She was first on television to discuss the issues that matter most to her audience and subsequently gained their trust. She is the leader and the next host will not have that same trust.

Secondly, the Oprah dynamic wasn’t built in 20 months but over the course of 20 years. I have a hard time envisioning the live-by-the-numbers executives giving the replacement twenty years.

This dilemma at ABC is really a testament to what Oprah has built. The strong and meaningful connection she has developed with her audience (or customers) is unmatched. I am willing to bet that most Oprah fans could picture themselves having coffee with her in their kitchen.

Behind this fact is an important marketing/business/life lesson.

While I have never met her, every move made under the watchful public eye appears genuine. She is generous, happy and down to earth because that’s who she is and not because appearing to be is good for business. (If you believe otherwise, ask yourself if you could fake that for 24 years.)

In today’s marketplace there is a constant conquest to be accepted by the masses. However, many brands forget what they are at their core: human. The ones that can discover this will have a great advantage (this will require more than a twitter account).

Unfortunately, were currently in a time when it’s quickly becoming convention to teach the exact opposite; to treat yourself as if you are a brand.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ideas to Market the Rochester Amerks

I love hockey. It's an indescribably wonderful sport.

When I was just about knee-high, my dad took my brother and I to our first hockey game, sometime around 1990 or 1991. It was our hometown Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. We were both instantly addicted to the entire experience and have been fans ever since.

Fast forward to today. After a few well-documented disaster seasons the club lost a lot of fans and the owners were forced to sell. Now they have new owners in their second year who committed to winning and so far have delivered. The Amerks are off to a 14-5 start; which includes a franchise record 11 game win streak.

But the fans have not to come back. Their two highest attendance totals are 6,035 and 4,124 with five games drawing totals of less than 3,000 fans. This for a team that drew nearly 8,000 fans per game less than ten years ago.

I must say that the new owners and management deserve a lot of credit. They understood that even the greatest marketer cannot successfully sell a loser so they even spent their own money to sign players (not solely relying on the NHL parent to sign players) and form a winning team.

They have made sound business decisions as well. They welcomed back many retired players to be present in the arena and returned to wearing the traditional read, white and blue sweaters.

However, there is still more that must be done.

1) Fix the ticket prices- I still contend that the ticket prices are too high. Tickets are priced at five different levels; $20, $19, $17, $14 and $11- all are way too expensive for one night of entertainment for a family of four- especially in uncertain economic times. They should cut the prices by $2 across the board. However, I know they won't do that- especially if they didn't as a goodwill gesture immediately after purchasing the team.

So I purpose two different changes. The first is to eliminate the $1 increase on all tickets purchased on the day of the game. The upcharge is scary similar to the "gotcha" fees that banks and airlines stick their customers with. Last time I checked on the banks and airlines this customer care policy was not exactly paying off. Secondly, simplify the ticket price levels (or arena map) from five down to four. This simpler price plan will at least give the appearance of some price relief.

Even though I attend games I currently never pay full price for a ticket due to heavy discounting. In the long run the Amerks would greatly benefit from creating a simpler price points that are closer to the intersection of supply and demand but eliminating the heavy discounting.

2) Customers already in the building are amazing opportunities- Even though a lot of the fans who attend Amerks games are regulars, they're plenty who are not. It's crucial to identify these people and "move them up the ladder" into more regular customers. It takes time and some brand building- you cannot get from the bottom rung to the top in one step. Step one is to get their contact information, which is easy, but the Amerks don't attempt to do.

Here's one way to start.

In a busy area set up a table with a ballot box and contestant forms with a question to answer. Who will score the first goal of the game? At what minute? The three stars? The final Score? Just add lines for name, address, phone and email. Winners take home a small prize like an autograph or gift card.

And you could go a step further and set up a separate ballot box for kids to participate in and later send a kids club form or a birthday card if you get a date of birth.

Soon the database will have a lot of fresh names to send marketing materials. Be careful because over send and your messages become instant junk.

3) Promote Smarter- The Amerks are currently using this television ad to promote its games. It's quite cheesy it's and grammatically awful: "There's no limit to the fun you get."

But I could even excuse that. What's inexcusable is trying to position their unique product on "fun." When selling entertainment, fun is assumed. Tell us why Amerks hockey is unique. Excite the fans. Give the product an identity. A far better ad would be video that plays on the scoreboard before the game- which unfortunately has not made it to Youtube yet.

Additionally, the Amerks (and they're not alone) market themselves to many different segments of fans using the same tactics. Does it make sense to market to a college student using the same tactics as you would a family? Of course not. Taking the extra steps to customize their marketing efforts when reaching out to vastly differing segments is critical because each is driven in a unique way.

4) Make Better Use of Media- It's no secret that the quantity and rate of media that is being consumed by everyone is rapidly increasing. Today, everyone with a Facebook account or blog can be a media outlet. The Amerks are no different. They utilize social media tools such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter as well as more traditional forms such as the newspaper. There are a lot of options to engage fans today.

But it's never the outlet that's engaging- it's the content delivered.

Currently, the Amerks content less than engaging. Their Youtube channel features some postgame interviews, practice footage and press conferences but not much else.

To be more engaging they need content that is unique, interesting and original. And the quality of media is holds an an even greater importance because they're points during the season when fans cannot consume the primary product (live home games) for six to ten days at a time.

For instance, the Amerks could show off all the unique places the city has to offer to the players that new here- and record it. Perhaps you can take them for their first garbage plates.

Or create a video diary of the Amerks on road trip.

Find out the how they got to the AHL. Everyone has a story...but sometimes you have to dig for it.

The possibilities are limitless.

While the media is changing dramatically; one rule is not. Be interesting.

Tell me what you think. What suggestions do you have for the Rochester Amerks? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Story of Mac and PC

I discuss Apple a lot on this blog, so I’ll be brief and I'll try not to gush too much. However, I do want to point out something Apple does really really well: Advertise.

It has been four years since we have welcomed Mac and PC into our homes and each visit they hammer home the same pro-Mac message: they are easy to use, powerful and virtually virus free.

What makes them so great?

They understand that strategy (the big picture) is the key to marketing success and that requires the same focused message year after year.

The commercials are tactically strong as well. They’re easily recognizable, original and most importantly, remarkably simple.

While the Mac vs. PC debate will rage on, the marketing winner is clear. These ads have done their part to position the Mac brand as the higher-end, easy to use, incrediably capable, personal computer in the minds consumers. And as a result, Mac sales have grown each year since.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Undoing of Under Armour

I always admired the Under Armour brand. I loved their product. I loved their “We Must Protect This House” marketing campaign and when my friend would wear his Under Armour cold gear to play intramural football, I admit, I was a little jealous. The stuff was just cool.

(Editors Note: If you look back to the Brands I Love post, I even mention Under Armour.)

Quickly, UA became a hot brand and like most do they took advantage. UA was on display throughout every sporting goods and athletic shoe store in the United States. They added line-extensions into gloves, socks, sweatbands, sweatshirts, jackets, golf wear, cleats and made big bets on running shoes. Don't believe me?

This unfocused short-term approach paid off for awhile. Their revenue and profit is outlined below.

2005.... $281 net.... $19 profit
2006.... $430.6 net....$38.9 profit
2007.... $606.5 net....$52.5 profit
2008.... $725.2 net....38.2 profit

(in millions of US dollars)

However, last week marked an important point for UA. Their stock was hammered by investors after announcing a 16 percent increase in sales. How could that be?

Investors were reacting to a conference call to analysts where they confessed they would not see growth in the highly sought after footwear category in the upcoming year. All this after UA made a major splash in athletic shoes at the Super Bowl in 2008 ($25 million dollar buy) complimented with a rush of ads in 2009. According to footwear analyst quoted in Ad Age, “they tried to go big” but “they would have been much smarter to start small.”

Analysts seem to agree that their poor performance in footwear was due to poor tact. The campaign into the category was too expensive, poorly timed and failed by “notably less testosterone-fueled” advertising.

However, none came to the conclusion that the running shoe market is too crowded and they don’t belong. Even more unfortunate is that the UA Founder and CEO Kevin Plank didn’t think so either despite this early warning sign. He says “I just want to drive home the point; we couldn’t have greater confidence in the upside of our long-term potential in footwear.”

Too crowded? Just off the top of my head: Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Asics, Reebok and Saucony.

UA became a hot brand because they had great brand strategy: create a category and give it a great name. A perfect name in fact. UA created the compression wear category. It stayed warm in cold weather, was breathable in the heat, and didn’t retail moisture. As a bonus the product felt great: put it on and your muscles felt as through they would rip right through the shirt.

Now because of a lack of focus and over-saturation of line extensions, Under Armour is cooling off fast and feeling like a fad.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Go Vote

Today is election day and I just want to stress the importance of caring about the direction the country is in. Although it is not a big Presidential election, the local and state elections have a tremendous impact on our lives. We need to hold our leadership accountable to the descisions they make on our behalf...but that means we must be accountable by being informed and electing great leaders.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rochester Top 100

I just want to throw a quicky up for the Rochester Top 100 which came out yesterday. I want to say congrats to these companies and their employees. This community would look a lot different without you. A complete list can be found here.

What I love most about the list is that the list is littered with UNIQUE businesses that the average person would never think existed. For instance, check out what is going on at Sydor Optics. Now that's innovation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Power of Saying No

Sometimes, it's the best thing we can ever do.

There is something to being an exclusive. That's the power of focus.

Monday, October 26, 2009

By The Book

People often compare life to a book. Everyday you are writing a little bit of it. Let's assume this is true.

If your life is your story, then why live by the book. That only makes for a boring story that people have read before.

Spice up your book with curisoity, adventure, risks, generosity, family, independence and excitement.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Proper Follow Up

Personally, I believe a good post-sale follow up is one of the most effective marketing tactics anyone can use. That second sale is equally important to the first one and a good follow up goes a long way to earning that second sale.

However, there can be wrong way to follow up on your sale.

This week I took my car to the dealer because I received a recall notice from the manufacturer. I typically take my car there for service just because they send coupons for discount oil changes but I wouldn't say that I am overjoyed by their service- but it's at least serviceable.

Well, suddenly, this dealer became a BIG believer in a follow up. The following day I received a phone call from them asking me about my service. Nice, right? Unfortunately the delivery was not good. Their rep was made to read a horribly generic script, asking questions they should already know the answer to, such as, what type of car was it and why did you come in?

Follow this up with a generic email and a telephone recording and you become annoying not caring. Rather, show your customers care about your product them by following up with relevant, individual connections.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Innovation vs. Simplicity

When someone says the word innovation, what words or images come to mind? Technology. Computers. Internet. Speed. I think this is a good starting point because most have become wired to think about innovation this way in a technology driven world.

For instance, last night I was listening to a guy on television talk about innovation- how great it was, how the businesses that will survive are doing it etc. Unfortunately, as is the case with most "innovation people," he was not easiest to follow. He rambled on in industry speak- inputs, outputs, resources, the convergence of ideas, and that one day we can take over the world from our handheld- concepts that really mean nothing to the viewer.

I started to question his knowledge of true innovation. If he really understood innovation, why can't he explain it in a way everyone understands. His explanation needed some innovative revisions to simplify it for the person buying his product.

Then I thought, how often do a lot of these so called "innovations" truly simplify the lives of the user.

Let's say for instance you have a question for your bank so you call them up. The phone rings and you have to talk to a computer for a few minutes- press one for this, six for this, eight for this. But you were probably looking for something completely different. It's frustration not innovation.

Conversely, look at Google. They became the internet search leader in part because of innovation. Go to the MSN homepage. Then go to Google's. See the difference. Innovative, simple and user-friendly.

The same goes to Apple. When you first take your Mac computer home, setting it up is a bit different then setting up your new PC. It's simple and easy.

Just to prove that you can innovate in a non-tech industry, I'll mention McDonald's. Their new drive-thru is two lanes, both open all the time. it's not two lanes open at lunch and dinner the rest of the time the customer has to figure it out. It's easy for the consumer and it speeds up your wait.

If your business is truly going to innovate, you must have the customer in mind at all times. So the next time you hear innovation, the first thought to mind is simplify.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Little Details

I could do an entire blog about this but I won't- this posting will have to suffice. Your brand is judged on how it handles details. Period.

Ad campaigns and magazine/newspaper articles will get all the credit upstairs with management, but the consumer (that person who decides what your brand really is) is not fooled.

The devil is in the little details. The phrase is so old it's a cliche, yet for many even big details remain an afterthought. For example, this morning I had an appointment at 9:00 am. After a twenty-minute drive, I arrive to an empty parking lot and locked doors.

Ask yourself how well you are managing details. If you have clients, how often do you call to reschedule meetings? If you have a store, what does your parking lot and store front look like?

These details are your most convincing and impactful advertisement. And yet, because they don't reach 1000 people at one time they are usually overlooked.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More than Just Not Funny

When it came to creating commercials, Bud Light was King. Their ads were so good that a bunch of them became part of pop culture. My personal favorites are the "Real Men of Genius" ads.

Unfortunately, the brand seems to have lost a bit of it's magic. There new improved Drinkability 2.0 campaign-"Too light, too heavy" commercials leave much to be desire. They're not funny and unimaginative.

Normally, those ads don't do much for me and I just tune out but this ad caught my eye today. It depicts two guys training a dog to speak. However, it ends with a dog driving a car all over the road. For a beer ad! A car all over the road crashing into stuff...Is that really the image we want for a beer ad? Whether you take offense or not, the fact that someone could make the connection is reason enough for the idea to be on the cutting room floor.

The fact that this made it into millions of homes, despite the obvious drunk driving connection, is a clear sign that the marketing folks at Bud Light are lost in their ways.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

SWA on the Money

I know I'm a bit late posting this, but I think everything about this commercial is great. Great purpose, great script.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

HR Folks Need Marketing Lesson

HR folks, I know your job is tough. I know it's way more than just hiring and firing. It also involves employee benefits, payroll, worker complaints, and endless number of laws and mountains of paperwork. You definitely have a lot on your plate.

However, maybe you could spare a few minutes for a bit of a marketing lesson. Every time you don't return a phone it hurts your brand. Someone feels mistreated and they will not buy your goods, despite how excited they sound in their cover letter or interview.

In addition, you expect the candidate to take the time to write personalized letters and resumes, but you send back a very generic "thank you for your interest...we're going in another direction" letter or email.

While I have a shoebox full of generic letters and a head full names I vow not to forget, I say this as a marketer. Candidates take enough of an interest in your brand to say "Yeah, I'd love to work there" so chances are there is the potential for customer behind that resume.

For your brand's sake it's time to put the human back in human resources. A bridge burns both ways and it won't help your brand by being the bully.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I will be honest. I don’t like salesmen. It’s not that I don’t like them personally but it’s there job I don’t like.

I think most people agree that don’t like being sold to. We love to buy, but just don't sell us. As consumers we are most comfortable buying products that we buy our own terms.

How often are you contacted by a salesmen with the world's most amazing new product or service that you never heard of before?

Salesmen are everywhere making their boring calls everyday. My thinking is, if I have to be talked into buying something, I must have never wanted it. I live fine without it.

So, how would these sales hungry men and women spend their day if people woke up wanting to buy what their selling? No convincing necessary.

The answer: they would be branding.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Knowing your market

A couple days ago I began rereading the book that started it all for me, "The Origin of Brands" by Al and Laura Ries. I pulled this important lesson from first couple chapters and summarized it for the good of humanity.

A common question that people ask when discussing a brand is how big is the market the product or service. Most managers, even the best marketing managers and advertising directors will rattle off a long list of numbers and percentages that will all sound very impressive.

However, the best brands will all have the same answer- zero. That is because they don't think about "markets." Rather they think in terms of categories and owning a category in the mind. To these brands, being first in the mind is crucial. This is brand leadership.

Take Coca-Cola for instance. What was the cola market 123 years ago before it was invented? Zero, no one knew what cola was. They created the market, were able to maintain it and are still the brand leader.

The true leaders will always think about the marketplace how it could be, and not how it currently is.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mother Approved Fashions?

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about retailer Areopostle catering to the customer (Mom with the checkbook) rather than the consumer (the Jonas Brother loving teenager). The complete article can be read here.

At face value it seems like a great tactic. Wider aisles for a stroller. More places for mom's to plop down while the wait for their kids and staffers are being trained to target mom.

However this tactic could work against them. I want you to think back to your teenage years and how going to the mall with your mom was the lamest activity of all time. Be seen with mom- forget about it. Shop at the stores that mom likes and thinks are cool? Simply out of the question. After all, you are the one who had to wear that to school. While Areopostle has never been the coolest store in the mall in the eyes of teens, catering to the tastes of the 'rents will not score it any more cool points with teens.

As a teenager is there anything more important than the opinion of your peers? I applaud stores like Abercrombie for sticking with their teen-centered store experiences despite the retail cash-crunch.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back from a blogging break

I took a short break from the blog for a few days to work on some other things I have going. I want to thank my friend and digital marketer Dan for putting me on to a great new website about digital marketing and all things viral. I added it to my favorite links on the side of the page.

During my break I had a couple interviews with some public relations people that went really well. I only bring this up because it was a big week for foot in your mouth moments with Kanye and the congressman, followed by President Obama getting "caught" off the record saying Kanye is a Jackass.

By the age of 10 everyone knows not to say or do anything that you wouldn't want printed in the newspaper or spread virally over the net. It's become so ingrained it's a cliche. Yet, somehow we still have these crawl-under-a-rock PR moments all the time.

We are all human. Everyone will at some point in their life make a decision they regret, it happens. The solution is another cliche. It's not how you act, but how you react.

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's not just the best Pizza Pizza! that wins.

An odd thing has been happening lately. Rarely do you ever see a prominent brand disappear, then come back and be successful. However, national brand Little Caesars (remember them?) disappeared and is now returning from the brink.

As a little boy there were three pizza places near my house: a small local chain, a Pizza Hut and a Little Caesars. The local pizza place, Pontillo's, had the best product and was the only survivor in that local pizza battle.

Then Little Caesars and Pizza Hut both disappeared around 1995 or 1996 and was missing in action for at least a decade. I didn't see a Little Caesars outside of a Kmart until 2007 when I was living in South Bend, Indiana. Then more and more started popping up all over and last month a Little Caesars opened in the exact location that it occupied back in the day. However, today they're now seven pizza places within three blocks of their door.

Even though competition among pizza places has grown, Little Caesars has been able to make a comeback because of an intense focus on their convenient $5 Hot-N-Ready pizza pick-up operation. Therefore, even though Little Caesars does not have the best tasting pizza, this focus on convenience, speed and price has brought the brand back from the brink.

My point is that one item can have many different benefits and one brand cannot own all of them. Different companies can accentuate certain benefits of the product and still own the category. Domino's built an empire on delivery. Little Caesars rediscovered success with convenience and price. Nowhere did either of them talk taste- they were too busy selling you the invisible.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Source of Brilliant!

Great idea... Where did it come from?

To me, the best thing about a brilliant idea that can impact the world is that you don't need a Ivy-League education, any special background or even a resume to have one. Truly revolutionary ideas can come from any person walking the planet. I think the only real qualification may be believing that your ideas are great.

A company that believes this is Kodak. Kodak recently held an open audition for great ideas on their blog and the CMO's twitter page, asking for help naming their latest camera, a pocket sized video camera that shoots in high-definition, currently tagged the Zi8. Thousands of believers answered their call.

I found this really cool. Some marketers, who are filled with incredibly outstanding ideas themselves, have trouble recognizing that ideas can come from anywhere. This is only natural. All of us are consumed with our industries, and inevitably end up looking in those commonly visited places in our minds. However, they often come when we step outside of our cluttered minds. Similarly, when one believes they have a great one, it's hard to look at it as anything but. Once an idea is ours, we become immediately partial and ready to defend it.

In this sense I am no different. I entered the name the "Kodak Vita," which by definition means lifelike or a biographical sketch, which in my extremely bias opinion is a perfect for an HD camera.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Exceptional Customer Service

On Friday I was discussing marketing in an interview and I was asked to talk about "positive customer service" that I experienced while shopping/dining.

My response....waiting....waiting....waiting...umm...

You guessed it, nothing even stood out among the repeated mediocre to poor customer service that is practiced on a daily basis.

So this weekend I really paid close attention to customer service. Here are the lowlights. My family and I waited forty-five minutes for our breakfast at an unpopular national chain restaurant. Also, I waited nearly 10 minutes at the window of drive-thru for a hamburger and fries. When I was finally served...the clerk didn't even say a single word, she just handed my bag.
While there is a definite lack of customer service today, there is certainly no shortage of talk about it. You hear and read about a company's dedication to service all the time; yeah, okay, whatever.

What if a company actually walked the talk? How would the business world change? People's shopping patterns? I know answering the question I was faced with Friday would have been a lot easier.

One positive of this; there is great opportunity for brands that can walk the talk, particularly for smaller businesses.

In my opinion the Top Five Worst Offenders are:

Fast Food
Auto Dealers
Government Entities (Post Office/Motor Vehicle Dept.)

Do you agree? Revise this list in the comments section.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Buzz Begets Buzz

I just wanted to quickly mention a great example of social marketing: AMC and its season premiere of Mad Men. People are already talking about it, so it had a trmendous amount of natural buzz that translates to social media. It's the type of thing people will facebook about it, tweet about it and talk about it; unlike say, the brand of dryer sheets they use.

It goes back to what I was saying about some stuff is great for social marketing, whereas other stuff is just not. Mad Men (and season premieres of popular television shows) are obvious examples of great uses for social marketing because the conversation is authentic. The authenticity of the buzz is key because people know advertisers are in the web 2.0 world. With natural buzz it is very clear that influencial people in a persons life care about the brand.
Advertisers can nuture the buzz to create a greater ripple effect throughout the web. Case in point the "Mad Men Yourself" game. I noticed a friend had posted his on facebook, asked him about it, found out what it was, went to the site to do one myself, and now I am here blogging about it some more. I had no idea this person was a fan of the show, so now, I'm sure it's something that we will end up discussing or buzzing about.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Positive Vibes from ESPN!

I was looking at my blog and I noticed that I had a lot of negativity going on in the last couple posts so I want to change that.

First, I want to pay a compliment to a company that I don't often give praise to, ESPN. Don't get me wrong, I watch it all the time but it has become a bit stale this last couple years. Without going into details, I just am I longing for the good ol' days of Kenny Mayne, Rich Eisen and Dan Patrick.

One show I still watch a lot it Pardon the Interruption, with Tony K and Mike W, and recently they began doing something I think is brilliant. Well, a couple weeks ago I noticed that they were cutting into commercials to the guys just talking off-air. At first, I thought it was a mistake and someone was asleep in the control room. Just yesterday I was watching and I found myself waiting for the cut-in and I realized, wow, I'm interested in this 5 second clip and it was enough to keep me around.

Then it hit me, damn, that is smart. They have a tiny teaser during the break to keep the viewer interested, and it worked on me. ESPN...i give you a lot of credit for this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sad signs of the times

During a recession, historically businesses look at cutting back on marketing first. This results in agencies struggling, laying off thousands of jobs as well as being late arrivals to the recovery party. Now, cut backs are not the only recessionary strain on agencies these days.

Many marketers are now telling agencies they cannot pay them the same fees they always have- cutting what they pay by up to 30 percent in some cases. Furthermore, some are asking that fees be reduced retroactive to 2008; paying less for work that has already been completed. Maurice Levy, CEO for Publicis Groupe was quoted in the WSJ last week "they want more for less" and David Sable COO of Wunderman said "There is no one in the industry whose clients have not said 'We are under pressure, so you have to cut fees.'"

Furthermore, major clients are trimming costs by stearing clear of retainer relationships and setting up a fee scale based on the ad's performance.

This concept is completely ridiculous when you compare it to most other industries, which is exactly what Scofield Editorial of Indianapolis did (and the entire point of this blog post) when it made this youtube video-Vendor Client Relationship- for it's clients.

Why should the agency have to cut its employees to save the jobs for their clients? A good client agency relationship should work like this- the client wants to see it's agency be profitable as well, because the more profitable an account in an agency, the better the talent that will work on an account.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

G is for huh?

A couple days ago the WSJ reported the earnings for PepsiCo, which sagged thanks to poor sales numbers from Gatorade, it's second largest selling drink by volume next to Pepsi-Cola. According to the report, Gatorade lost 4.5% of their market share down to 75% and volume slipped 17.5% in the first six months of this year.

Why I find this so interesting?

Back in January, Gatorade received a makeover to bring a bit of "coolness" back to the brand. They simplified the product label to a large "G" complimented with a smaller signature lightning bolt. In their advertisements, they ask: "What's G?"

Personally, I was a bit confused at first. I thought it might be a new flavor or a new line of drinks on the way. Turns out, I was in the majority. According to Mr. Pecoriello, cheif executive of ConsumerEdge Research LLC, when they asked, "people weren't sure." So what is G? It's the "heart, hustle and soul of athleticism," which I learned for the first time after reading the WSJ article.

This is not the only redesign Pepsi misplayed recently. In February, Pepsi pulled back from it's Tropicana redesign to return to the more familiar orange with a straw in it after consumers complained. Also, the latest Pepsi redesign was welcomed with mixed results.

I'm not accusing poor redesigns of being the only reason for the drop in sales-the overall category is down 12 percent and their is growing competition from similar jucies, teas and energy drinks. However, I don't beleive it's a coincidence either.

Regardless, this is not good news for the Pepsi, which just three years ago proclaimed they had trouble meeting demand for Gatorade.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Buick trying to get bullet please meet foot

Yesterday I was reading the Wall Street Journal and I came across an article about GM trying to "breathe new life into it's profitable but slow-selling Buick line."

Buick hopes to attract a more affluent, younger demo. Currently, the average age of a Buick driver is around 70 years old. Tom Stephens, GM's Vice chairman of product development said that Buick is going for "the same person who would buy a Lexus" even though less than one percent of Lexus buyers considered Buick when shopping.

You don't need a crystal ball to see their future will not be bright as a result of this decision. However, I cannot say I'm shocked, this is GM after all. Oddly enough, Buick is one of their few profitable brands.

I look at it like this. My grandfather drove a Buick. Lot's have grandpa's drive Buick's. It has been this way for a long time. Therefore, changing Buick's public perception is unlikely. Make that very unlikely. Furthermore, this becomes an extremely bad decision because in the coming years, there will be more grandpa's than ever as the baby boomers gorw older. More potential grandpa's would have meant more potential Buick buyers.

Buick, your brand characteristics (story) are older yes, but also mature, classic, and rich. Sure it's not young and sexy, but you're actually profitable, and I don't know anything that's sexier than that.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Do sterotypical urban losers sell fast food?

I spent last night tuned into the Major League Baseball All-Star game because I love the game, not looking for any marketing insights, but it turns out I found some.

During a commercial break, a very long (almost 90 second) Taco Bell commercial came on, which can be seen in part here. I was instantly overwhelmed. REALLY TACO BELL!

This commercial is strangely close to this auto-tuned mess delivered by Wendy's. However, it was most likely McDonald's who is the originator of this over-the-top-song concept, releasing this commercial back in 2008. McDonald's however has always focused on an urban demo, featuring your run of the mill "young urban" crowd who are "lovin it" while chillin and breakdancing.

I'm not accusing Taco Bell of ripping off Wendy's or McDonald's because they've done is type of work before. I am however accusing anyone involved in creating (I use that term loosely) or approving these spots of lacking any desire to be original and, you know, "creative". Why does it all look like the same mass-produced fast food ad producing machine that did all this work?

In an article published by Al Reis just last week, he explains why advertising is so mediocre today, and subsequently why we have this phenomenon happening. Those that create the ads, as well as the managers who commission them view advertising in terms of a "accepted standard; people don't want different, they want better."

A message to these brand managers: different is better.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

King of Bad Marketing

Lebron James is one of the biggest American sports stars today; this goes without debate. However, this past week, the 24 year-old king of basketball was apparently dunked on at his own camp by a 20 year-old college basketball player. That player was Xavier guard Jordan Crawford and as a Xavier alum, I am extremely proud.

However, it appears that the videotape of this dunk will remain unseen because it was immediately confiscated by the Lebron/Nike team of drones, resulting in a tremendous amount of negative publicity for Nike and Lebron this week. This adds to the swirling negative perceptions around Lebron that he is only about himself, a sore loser and he doesn't want an unknown college player (who has done and said all the right things) to have any shine with his spotlight whatsoever.

From a marketing perspective, this event was a great occurrence; giving Lebron and Nike had the chance to steal the headlines for a couple days during the sleepy NBA offseason. Even greater, this is social marketing GOLD. It was not created in some studio by an ad agency, it just happened naturally, creating a massive buzz throughout the sports world.

However, they seem to be looking at this from the half empty perspective. Instead of spinning positively saying Lebron is human and even he can get dunked on, Nike totally shoots a brick. Did they forget that human is Nike's core demographic? Not professional athletes but the weekend athletes.

In the end, Nike will lose a lot of authenticity in the consumer's minds. Instead of a company full of young, rebellious, ahead of the curve marketing geniuses, they drop the ball and look like just another boring billion dollar self image concerning conglomerate.

Finally, did Nike really think that a college athlete and a young reporter were going to take down the Lebron empire with a youtube video? These are the guys who have degrees in this stuff. The guys who do this for a living better than anyone else. Something tells me that Nike being professionals at this stuff wouldn't miss an opportunity like this. That leaves Lebron in charge, and he completely tossed an air ball on this one.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Is there a downside to Social Media?

I am not going to be going out on a limb when I say that most people know all about Facebook and Twitter at this point. One thing is definitely certain- marketers know what it is. Social marketing is all the rage within marketing circles; it doesn’t take a genius to know this but if you read the blogs or talk to people you will quickly discover their excitement in this area.

I pulled this entry from a Rochester New York based advertising agency Dixon Schwabl’s blog, posted June 20th 2009.

“As social media continues to grow at a pace faster than you can blink an eye, more and more companies are trying to weigh the pros and cons of venturing into this unknown territory, while at the same time trying to understand just exactly what social media can do for their business. The benefits of social media are many, so if your company is teetering on the fence and considering taking the dive, here are a few of my favorite reasons to get the conversation started.

Increases visibility: There is no arguing that social media forms draw millions of subscribers. By participating, your company is creating another platform for which to increase brand awareness, be recognized and talked about.

Search Engine Optimization: Social media drives more traffic to your site/links, enhancing your company’s online presents and increasing traffic results.

Flexibility: Social media comes in many forms. If you don’t have success with one approach, try another, and best of yet, all it usually costs you is time!
It can work alongside traditional advertising methods: As with any campaign, an integrated approach will yield a higher ROI compared to a silo approach. Use social media to add another medium into the marketing mix. It will provide a new platform for which to reach potential customers.

It’s here and now: Recent technology has created a whole new world for which companies have the ability to tap into. The Internet is as social and active a place as any, and although it might diverge in the years to come, it’s not expected to disappear anytime soon. Your competitors are likely creating a web presence, so not participating and growing with technology may mean a risk to your company if your competition reaches your consumer first.”

Later I even saw a Dixon Schwabl brochure that went as far as to say companies should switch to new media to reach their audience. They compared a boring, obsolete traditional campaign to a new a supposedly effective one in 2009. They recommend replacing traditional newspaper ads with banner ads on newspaper websites, billboards with email blasts, and television ads with online video ads… You get the picture.

They make a lot of great points about the advantages of social media, but I don’t share the same free-wheeling enthusiasm for social media as many other agencies seem to have. I do believe there is a downside to this, which I know, is an ironic thing to say on a blog.

Well, my main objection to the social media craze is that it’s so new and unproven that how any agency can really make claims about the results of social media. The number of eyeballs that your message reaches is often dependent upon people sending it to their friends. Also unproven is the formal for creating good social media. Take a viral video for instance. Who wrote the rule book for creating a good one? Perhaps that Britney Spears crying guy- his/hers (?) was a blockbuster. Chances are that your agency doesn’t know the formula exactly. The fact is that some videos catch fire, and some don’t.

We’ve already seen some brands like Dominos take major punches because of outside attacks via social media. Anyone can say anything true or untrue and it can spread like wildfire. However, I think some brands need to be careful about using social media themselves because of disconnect that could result in cheapening a brand.

Some classic brands come to mind. Do you think an older, iconic brand like Rolex would advertise on Facebook and send out email blasts? In there case, I think advertising in the Wall Street Journal and a written newsletter to buyers is more appropriate. Although they incur costs, these mediums are just more appropriate for that type of brand. What about a medical professional sending out Twitter updates? I think I speak for many when I say I don’t want my doctor “tweeting.”

Furthermore, because social media is so easy to use, a lot of brands jump in with both feet without thinking first. Are you sending a mixed message that conflict with other brand messages? Do you test your messages before you throw them up on Youtube (talking to you Motrin), like you would with a television commercial.

Finally, as everyone rushes into the social media party, the room is going to get very crowded. There is more clutter on the net everyday, which makes it a lot harder to stand out. As this clutter piles up, the user gets annoyed and tolerance gets shorter. They won’t be looking at those 25 twitter updates and 15 newsletters that are waiting in their inbox.

I liken the social media craze to a classic college kegger. At first it’s fun and exciting (I know, freshmen), they’re few house rules obeyed and the next morning you may wake up wondering if there were more productive uses of your time and resources.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Coolest Brand

So, after thinking about what brands I admire most, I began to think about different brands attributes. For example, Coca-Cola is known as a very classic and timeless brand as well as a symbol of Americana.

One attribute that kept coming up in my mind was "cool." So, I began to wonder what brands today are "cool." Obviously, what is and who is deemed cool is going to be different everyone, so the following list is viewed through the eyes and mind of a 24 year-old, single, male, college graduate who loves sports etc etc etc)

One quality that I felt all of these cool brands should have is a buzz worthy cultural relevance today, an inexact quality I know. I tend to think about it in terms of would it be the subject of a parody on Saturday Night Live. Finally, I did not organize this by product category or any other characteristic. It's just my thoughts.

Apple: I don't know too many people that would disagree with Apple being the hottest brand today. No company markets themselves like Apple, starting from the top with Steve Jobs to down to the kid at the Apple store. Apple products are cool, cutting edge and transforming societies in developed nations. The impact Apple has had on the music industry alone is enormous, not to mention the incredibly short time frame it occurred in is staggering. I'm not positive that several other industries are waiting for their fatal blow (Are you listening newspapers?), but the Iphone is rapidly changing our society (thanks to the embracing of third party apps-creating new opportunities for brands). Finally, all of this would mean nothing if Apple products were not as sleek, smooth and stylish as the are. They look cool. Period. How else could Apple go from the brands of geeks and computer nerds to the must have items of today.

Las Vegas: I am always thinking about ways for Western NY to grow and become more vibrant. While I don't think that branding efforts and advertising by cities will really work to bring people to the area unlike jobs and lower taxes will (note: currently the slogan is We Roc! As in, we have garbage plates and no rush hour, We Roc! Now don't you want to up and move). However, if there is one exception to branding a city, it has to be Las Vegas. Broken dreams or not, to a 24 year-old male, Las Vegas seems like a great time. Las Vegas sticks to what it knows best, gambling, hot girls, great parties, free alcohol, nice restaurants and shopping and an overall unmistakably unique great time. The best part for Vegas is you cannot take it home with you...hence, it stays here. I thought about Vegas and their marketing tactics and their cultural relevance. Have you seen a movie in the past ten years. I can count six without thinking that have been about Vegas (or were set there). It's not a mistake; they know what they are doing, and it's working.

UFC: Last night I was flipping through the channels on my television's guide and I saw a program called World Extreme Cagefighting on. A week or two back I went to a bar and it was unexpectedly packed, turns out there was some cagefight on. That same week, my brother was wearing a shirt that said "Tapout" on it, which I'd seen before on bumper stickers and stuff, so I asked what it was about and it was a UFC thing. I've seen more UFC and Mixed Martial Arts specials, conversations and references on television lately, so it's gaining a lot of mainstream buzz and acceptance than in the past (remember way back when it was depicted on the show Friends). Even thought I don't watch it, I know many guys my age do, and that following is growing. Now fighting is nothing new, but UFC seems to have a cool edginess to it that is not only absent from boxing, but all other contact sports.

I know this is not a complete list by any means. I thought about a lot of brands for this, many of whom are in very strong competitions for king of cool. Think Gatorade vs. Vitaminwater. Gatorade still is the brand of Jordan, Tiger Woods and new spokesmen Lil' Wayne. However, Vitaminwater is the product of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.

Another great competition is Nike vs. Under Armor. I don't think that Nike is as hot as it was when Jordan and Mars Blackmon were all over the television, yet, with all of it's new product lines there are not as many people "protecting the house." Both are still relevant, but there is no clear winning of who is coolest right now.

Finally, I thought about a brand battle between long time great brand Playboy, which is still very relevant with it's magazine covers producing celebrity after celebrity and now a couple television series (and tell me you don't want to go to the mansion) yet it's clearly not dominating like it was before Maxim magazine hit shelves and television with it's Hot 100 list.

As always, I love to hear what you think are some cool brands to you. Remember, this is just a list in the eyes of a 24 year-old male. For women, I was thinking that Target is a cool selection. After all, it's so nice that it's become dubbed Tarje. If your in the Rochester area (even though it's grown quite a bit, Wegmans may be queen. And although cool is usually defined by the young, if your older, maybe cool is oh, I don't know, Viagra?

So take some blue stuff and let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pricing and Brands

After the last post, reader Monica made an excellent point about the effects a price may have on a brand. Pricing is definitely important because it is an instant signal to the customer what your type of brand you are. For example, if I say $18,000 for a purse, you instantly think luxury brand. If were talking cars, it's a value brand.

But what if were talking about something with a variable price, such as airplane tickets and more recently, sporting event tickets, along with a host of other items that this has become customary. What does this do for a brand?

Well, Al Reis, this universe's all-time expert on branding (his books are must read) explains this in a recent article that was published in Advertising Age on June, 8 2009.

(I dont want to plagurize, but I pasted it here because once taken down from, I think you will need a subscription.)

A former New York Times editor recently wrote a full-page article for Forbes magazine advocating "variable pricing" for art museums.

"Art institution directors should start thinking like airline yield managers," was the subhead of the article.

That's strange. You might think the yield-management gurus would have the airlines rolling in dough. But that hasn't happened.

Take the five largest U.S. airlines. United went bankrupt. Delta went bankrupt. Northwest went bankrupt. US Airways went bankrupt. And American Airlines is losing money. In the last 10 years, American has had revenues of $199.8 billion and managed to lose $6.7 billion. Not exactly an industry to emulate.

Why do otherwise intelligent people borrow ideas and concepts from failing industries and think they will succeed in a different setting?

The unfortunate answer to that question is that in today's world, ideas and concepts don't seem to matter. What matters is "execution."

If you can execute well, goes the thinking, you are going to win. Which in itself is true. What is not true is that execution is unrelated to the power of the ideas and concepts driving the business.

Variable pricing is one of those ideas. No matter how well you execute a variable-pricing strategy, you wind up undermining the brand.

Airline customers used to be brand loyal. When I worked at General Electric in Schenectady, New York, I always called American Airlines first. If they didn't have a flight to where I wanted to go and at roughly the time I wanted to leave, I would ask the American representative to suggest another airline.

Variable pricing has destroyed the bond between airline and customer. Almost nobody books a flight without first asking, "What would that cost?"

Yesterday's brand-loyal customer is today's price-comparison shopper.

Except for Southwest Airlines, of course. While the airline does use yield-management strategies, it also puts a cap on its fares so they are never out of line.

According to a recent survey of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Southwest came out on top of the airline category for the 16th year in a row with a score of 81 out of 100, its highest ever, compared to a score of 64 for the airline business in general.

The major airlines should hold their heads in shame. It's like Wal-Mart coming out first in customer satisfaction ahead of Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

High prices alone are not the problem. Often you need a high price to define your brand. Without its high prices, Rolex would be just another watch brand. And Porsche would be just another sports car brand.

It's the variable pricing that causes the problems. You can see a mini version of this effect in the cola aisles of many supermarkets. In my local supermarket, for example, you normally see both Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola priced at $4.69 for a 12 pack. But often one or the other brand is on sale for $3 for the 12-can package.

With this much disparity in price, many consumers automatically buy the one that's on sale. In other words, the brands don't matter anymore. What matters is the price.

You can also see the effect in cola market shares. Normally a No. 1 brand has twice the market share of a No. 2 brand. But Coca-Cola's lead in the U.S. market is much less. On an index basis, Coca-Cola is 100; Pepsi-Cola is 65. (And Pepsi would have an even greater market share if it could do something about Coke's enormous lead in sales to restaurants and fast-food chains.)

Years ago the Coca-Cola Co. began testing a vending machine that could automatically raise prices for its drinks in hot weather. Consumer reaction was immediate and caustic. One beverage executive said, "What's next? A machine that X-rays people's pockets to find out how much change they have and raises the price accordingly?"

Brands have a function to perform, and one of the most important functions they perform is communicating the brand's price level and its equivalent quality level.

Consumers equate quality with price. The higher the price, the higher the quality. Not that consumers always want to buy the highest-quality products. Often they would rather save money and buy something less than the best.

These decisions usually depend on the category. Some categories are more important to a consumer; some categories less important. Some consumers buy expensive watches and cheap toilet paper. Or vice versa.

There's nothing wrong with being a high-end brand. There's nothing wrong with being a low-end brand. There's something wrong when you try to be both.

Take Lenovo, for example. What's a Lenovo? Is it a high-end computer or a low-end computer. Actually it's that and a midprice computer, too.

Lenovo has three lines of laptops. The ThinkPad line is at the high end. The "value line" is at the low end, and the IdeaPad line is somewhere in between. Prices in America range from $349 to $1,999. Lenovo, like many companies around the world, is trying to increase sales by appealing to everybody. That seldom works.

Lenovo is suffering. After eight years of profitable sales, the company lost $226 million in its last fiscal year. Out went Lenovo's American chief executive, replaced by his Chinese predecessor.

That sort of strategy is one of the reasons the U.S. automobile industry is in trouble. Trying to cover a wide swath of the market with a single brand name.

I remember a Dodge executive, years ago, bragging about the fact that the Dodge brand covered "85 percent of the market."

Is that good? It doesn't seem to be since Dodge is currently in the Dumpster along with the rest of the Chrysler brands.

I am a huge fan of Al and Laura Reis, my first official branding book that I read was their "Origin of Brands" which is the reason I do this today. I believe what they say, and I think if more businesses followed their advice, they would be in way better shape.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What Things You Will Never Give Up?

I want to ask everyone what are some items in your life that must have; you will not switch from that brand? It could be a product, a service or a place that you shop or eat at; really anything that you buy. An example for me is Chiptole. I absolutely love Chipotle, and while I will still eat at other places, I won't go to Moe's Southwest, because in my mind, Chiptole is the only burrito.

The reason I ask is to look at some similarities of all of these brands, as well was the ways they are unique.

So what is it for you? Will you only work on Apple and not PC's? Only drink Pepsi and not Coke? It could be anything, just let me know what your favorite brands are. I welcome all comments.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Obvious Product Placement

Late last night, I somehow found myself watching the MTV Movie Awards. In typical MTV fashion, the advertising within the show was so blatantly obvious, that I am baffled how a marketing executive could believe that it would even have the chance to effective.

An example was an introduction of an award by a British rapper (complete mind blowing oxymoron) who also happens to be an Orbit gum commercial, who happened to be a sponsor of the event.

Also, the movie Twilight, which won a bunch of awards, also happened to be advertising the Twilight sequel. I would question the integrity of the award, but I don't think there is much integrity to an MTV award to begin with.

Product placement when done right, is a great way to get a product into the show- not in the part the audience Tivo's. However, when products are obviously placed in the program, everything just comes across very forced and akward. Therefore, even though you got your name and logo in the show and it was seen by millions, it's entirely ineffective. The association that they will most likely make with the public is that they are a intrigal cog in our over commercialized and cluttered marketplace.

The whole thing was just hard for me to watch. I think most shows should just completely refrain from product placement- it cheapens the show, the network, and the brand.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's all about the Focus

This past month I signed my first client, an accomplishment which I am very proud of. This client is a life coach that works mostly with parolees reentering the population. Personally, I believe that is very cool and I know that in this city, reentries are the largest immigrating group to the city, at almost 2500 per year. Unfortunately, many go back to the same neighborhoods and the same situations they were in before, so most are definately a need for some coaching and support.

When my client approched me, he said that he wanted to take his business to the next level. To him, that meant casting a wider net to help as many people as he could, possibly packaging some of his lessons to a cd or dvd format.

I explained to him that in order to gain a competitive advantage, he must position himself correctly. He needs to focus on the reentry group and own that smaller market. If he owns the market, he will soon own the word. Then people will hear the words prison, jail and reentry and will immeadiately think of him. I'm positive that if he stays the course, this will happen because he is first to the "Reentry Life Coaching" category in Rochester.

Despite my advice, I get the sense that he is still worried about the size of the market. The funny thing about focus is that when you focus your position, you broaden your appeal. If the public finds out about the great work he does, they will be drawn to his service. I think about when Pepsi positioned itself against Coke with its "the choice of a new generation" campaign to try to appeal to a younger audience. This was an extremely successful position because they hooked the young people, and also older people, who wanted to feel young by drinking Pepsi. The more focused approach, the greater the appeal.

Monday, May 25, 2009



I know what you're thinking- just another stupid marketing blog that goes unread (hope not!) and takes up bandwidth in the internet universe. I know that this virtual universe is very cluttered, not to mention that most people barely have time to breathe much less sit down and read a blog. Therefore, I am not going to blog about pointless rants or personal thoughts. I know, no one cares. Time is too valuable to waste on that. This blog is to help you and your business.

However, this blog is dedicated to educating businesses on the principles of branding. A brand is designed to cut through the clutter of the marketplace- giving a product or service a significant competitive advantage.

I am excited to explore the world of branding, look forward to great discussion and interaction and proving my ability to cut through the world of internet clutter.