Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Customer Service Logistics

UPS loves logistics. They don't love reading long winded stories about logistics.

Today, when I emailed the company about an issue I had, I noticed that UPS's customer email form limits their comments to 500 characters.

Got a problem?  UPS is all ears...as long as you can tell your story in the span of three and half tweets or less.

Updated:  On Tuesday, I received a phone call and an email from UPS addressing my issue, so I was very impressed by their response.  They showed that they obviously care; it's just that a design flaw like this one could lead people to believe otherwise.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

What $30 Million Can't Buy

Johnson & Johnson is ailing.

In recent years, the company recalled over 280 million packages of its over-the-counter medicines, including medicine cabinet staples like Motrin, children’s Tylenol liquid and Benadryl.  Furthermore, J&J's DePuy Orthopedics division has recalled two of its artificial hips.  Those products are now the focus of more than 10,000 lawsuits.

Trust is everything to a marketer.  But this creed could mean far more to the medical industry, where consumers' sensitivities are elevated in large part to the personal risk and lack of knowledge regarding their problems or the solutions to them.

You don't have to be a M.D. to realize that even a small number of negative headlines can instantly sour public trust in the company and become extremely bad for business.

To rebuild this trust with consumers, Johnson & Johnson recently announced a new corporate branding campaign entitled, For All You Love.  The campaign's headliner is a one minute television ad and in 2013 will cost the company between $20 and $30 million. 

But it's far less clear how this new campaign will be good for business.  Johnson & Johnson can spend every penny it has on emotional ads that tell consumers how much they care, but without actions to support those claims, few will ever believe it.  Every consumer can easily recognize the difference between marketing lip service and a company that truly cares.  So while it's easy to say so, no amount of spending on warm and fuzzy advertising can replicate the real thing.

I recently heard a story about Schering-Plough, the company that makes the over-the-counter allergy medicine Claritin, that's more than three years old.  It cost them almost nothing and yet is more convincing to the degree that they care than any primetime spot aired during American Idol could be.

The Johnson & Johnson campaign needs action behind it.  A couple million dollars can buy a lot of Band-Aids.  Johnson & Johnson could allocate a sliver of their campaign budget to give their iconic Band-Aids to teachers, nurses, soccer coaches and scout leaders - just ask them to sign up online and a box arrives in the mail.  It's a simple but powerful gesture that would reach these influential members of their communities who best personify the ethos of the For All We Love campaign.

And I think a necessary one for Johnson & Johnson's campaign to come alive.   

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Corona Light Leaves Its Beach

A friend recently asked me if I had seen this all-around puzzling ad from Corona Light.  The first mystery surrounding it is in the imagery; leaving the beach for a pasture filled with sheep is steering the beer way off-brand.  Secondly, the suggestion that beer drinkers "ditch the herd" (oh sheep, get it?!?) naturally leads to the question of what the heck is unique about a Corona Light?

"The herd" is obviously a population drinking Bud Light and Miller Lite.  However, humans aren't sheep, we need a reason to stray.  Corona doesn't provide one so it's difficult to make sense of this ad beyond getting eyeballs to see it.

That said, I think it's fair to question whether the strategy to position Corona Light against Bud Light and Miller Lite is the right one?  I'd argue that both beers are simply alternatives to their respective parent brands - evidenced by the progressive decline in market share of each one since the second generation was introduced.  And Corona is really no different. Corona Light is a Corona with less calories. 

But while Corona is well-differentiated from the Budweiser and Miller family of brands, its positioning against what I think are closer rivals, the seasonal summer brews like Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and Sam Adams Summer Ale, is much less defined than it should be.

Before Corona goes and ditches its herd, I think they should take a second look at who else is in it.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why Irony Isn't Good If You're Busken Bakery

This is the advertisement that currently greets customers as they step out of their cars and walk into Busken Bakery's flagship store.  I recently wrote about the popular Cincinnati bakery after its annual pumpkin pie war with the local Big Boy chain earned it national headlines.  I really admire the branding work Busken does and I'm no stranger to this 24 hour location when I get a craving for something sweet.

This advertisement proclaims that its new heart-shaped doughnut, "Ironically, fights love handles. A Lite-Hearted Donut. Only 140 calories. 4 points."  Despite the ad's clever play on staying heart healthy and still enjoying the sweets that we love, it has one major flaw -  it repositions everything else they serve up as being pro-love handle.  So, while it may get a chuckle out of some folks, others may want to get back into their car empty-handed as they have suddenly thought better about the treats their hearts so desire.

Ironic, isn't it?

As always, thanks for reading and sharing.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Build It Brick-By-Brick

In the hyper-connected world in which we live, it's almost scary how fast information can spread.  Of course, when timing is everything to your business, this change makes a huge difference.  If you're a business like CNN, an airline or perhaps one with a public relations crisis, then the instantaneous nature of social media is of obvious importance to you.

But for many more businesses, it's far less important than it's treated.  They're social media plan doesn't need to be limited by things like deadlines, word counts or if their 30 seconds is almost up. These businesses can take their time and get it right.  It's tough to build equity 140 characters at a time unless there is some urgency behind the message.

The rest can should focus on the important; and build their social media presence brick-by-brick.

As always, thank you for reading. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Don't Just Slice It, Impute It

Earlier this week, I noticed I was being peppered with Arby's commercials during the breaks of a hockey game I was watching.

While the company's past brand positions (I'm Thinking Arby's and It's Good Mood Food) basically reinforced nothing tangible to the consumer, their latest campaign, originally announced in October, does make an attempt at giving consumers something they can hang their hungry hats on - that the food served at Arby's is sliced fresh.  With an assist from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Arby's is now "slicing up freshness."  Or at least so they say.

By the third or fourth Arby's ad I saw that night, I suddenly found myself watching intently as their ads flashed from the screen, triumphantly offering a position that consumers could understand.   But would they believe it?  I certainly have my doubts; there was a distinct disconnect between its overall position and the special two sandwiches for $5 offer they poured onto the end of the ad.

Despite their attempts via advertising to gain a reputation for slicing fresh, Arby's won't ever achieve this reputation if they don't impute it in everything they do.  Price is most definitely seen as a critical reflection of quality.  

Another way to impute this position is to actually be seen slicing the meat in the restaurant.  While I cannot recall my last visit to Arby's, anecdotal evidence via Brand Eating suggests that the deli slicers were moved from the customers’ sights long ago.  Moving them back would go a long way in supporting its position.

But it doesn't stop there, regardless of their quip that "it all begins and ends with the slicer."  Even though the campaign is focused on freshly sliced meat, the freshness of the bread they serve is obviously important in convincing consumers of their position.  Furthermore, freshness is imputed in how the meal is served; sandwiches that are wrapped in traditional foil and served on a run-of-the-mill plastic cafeteria trays are a cue to consumers of the low-price, low-quality fast food experience that those items help define for generations.  Understanding the old adage that consumers eat with their eyes first is paramount to Arby's gaining traction with its new higher-end brand position.     

Arby's could even go further in its advertising.  Single-handedly, the term fresh is vague.  Without further evidence to support it, Arby's is really just furthering the trivialization of it.  Perhaps Arby's could substantiate its freshness claim by discussing what suppliers they use, how the product is raised or approximately how long it takes to reach your plate?  Is it ever frozen?  Do they use a special rub to season it?  How long is it cooked for?...  Exploring these topics would be a good start. 

So while I like Arby’s new brand positioning, I just don't see any reason to believe them yet. 

As always, thanks for reading and for sharing.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Conveniently Misplaced?

On a recent shopping trip to Target, I strolled down an empty aisle tucked in a corner of the store near the pharmacy.  On display in the aisle was a wall of baskets filled with travel-sized necessities like soaps, lotions and toothpastes.

Actually, it's incorrect to call these necessities; they're really conveniences, as these items are specifically made and marketed as a convenient alternative for people temporarily living life out a suitcase.

However, with convenience in their DNA, this outpost feels underwhelming.  It's similar to placing the grocery store impulse buys like gum and candy in the back of the store next to the milk.  Whereas in that case, shoppers are more likely to glide right past the impulse buys, in this case, consumers must plan ahead if these these items are to end up in their luggage.    

Could Target benefit from selling these convenience items in a way that better fits with their identity?  This wall could certainly generate a crowd of bored passengers in an airport; however, the price of real estate in airports might present itself too high a hurdle.  Or perhaps consumers could purchase them online in conjunction with making their hotel reservations. Then, replacing the limited selection of hotel generics, you're items would be waiting for you in the room.

Feel free to contribute your own thought-starters for distributing these travel items with the convenience to fit  As always, thanks for enjoying. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Handwritten Is The Way To Go

I returned home yesterday after being away for two weeks.  Naturally, I was welcomed home with a fat stack of mail that had piled up.

I sifted through it and gradually began by opening the bills and letters that I had been expecting.  Halfway through this process I was intrigued by this piece of mail with a handwritten address that was even hand stamped.  

I opened it up and pulled out a fake (but a good one) newspaper page that had a handwritten post-it note attached to the top of the page.  The handwritten post suggested that I might enjoy the free book that's being promoted in the fake newspaper.

Obviously headlines such as "True Rags to Riches" are the first dead giveaway that this is some huckster trying to sell books and DVD's and investment advice for people looking to get rich quick.

I'm truly fascinated by this.  The person who created the advertisement put a lot of thought and work into it.  They went to great lengths to get people to open and read it.  The handwritten envelope and post-it note add a personal touch to an often impersonal medium.  Plus I give them extra credit for adding the nice touch of mutual fund prices on the back of the page.

Unfortunately, this great tactical work is wasted on an obvious scam.  Although Michael Parness and the rest of the ethically indifferent won't care, the ad should serve to reminder that great advertising cannot rescue garbage products.

One last thought: It's no accident that a scam artist would put a little extra TLC into their advertising, as they must do everything they can to appear legitimate.  Strangely, I think a lot of legitimate enterprises fail to fully grasp the urgency in every impression as this scam artist seems to exemplify. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Nothing Social About It

The term social marketing is a flawed one.  The reason is that the majority of "social" marketers use new tools like Facebook and Twitter in the unsocial ways they've always operated, to broadcast.   

While the building of networks is crucial their function, the foundation of these tools is still broadcasting because users build networks for the purpose of sending and receiving (broadcasting) updates to them.  Therefore, at its core, the social marketing that's often touted as a marketing breakthrough isn't that different from the broadcasting of advertisements your grandfather grew up with.    

Therefore, not surprising, a lot of brands design their social marketing around the tools they've been sold, not vice-verse.  

In my opinion, the broadcast-centric social marketing strategy is misleading marketers.  Instead of using social media to drive sales, marketers should flip the formula, and design strategies from the perspective of sales (and those real-world interactions) driving social media.

Then marketers can shift their social agenda from broadcasting content to amplifying those real-world connections.  It's a social strategy that's more parts customer service than advertising and perhaps winds up looking more like Angie's List than Facebook. 

Just wanted to add this late revision I stumbled upon today.  I think it's a perfect example.

Monday, April 1, 2013

If Your Spam Took A Vacation, Would You Miss It?

Andy Sernovitz publishes a great blog; the aptly named the "Damn, I Wish I'd Thought of That" blog.  I urge everyone to check to out.

A recent post about "fighting for every unsubscribe" sparked a few thoughts about email marketing.  The post puts the spotlight on the t-shirt site Busted Tees, who responds to those looking to unsubscribe with a lighthearted attempt at saving the relationship.

Although it's witty, the Busted Tees approach personifies a misguided strategy of asking for forgiveness instead of asking for permission.  I think businesses would be much better served by trying to "earn every subscribe" rather than fight to keep something they didn't earn in the first place.

Sure, earning attention requires a more thoughtful approach to communicating, which, if I'm not mistaken, is the whole point.

A quick thought on a more thoughtful approach.  If the latest round of advertising is the first thing a business considers sending customers who have made recent purchases, then they should reconsider their approach.