This blog is a dedicated forum for the transmission of
marketing strategies, insights, and opinions that matter.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Gift That Won't Fit In Your (Marketing) Stocking

Was watching a Los Angeles Clippers game tonight when a Lexus ad popped up tonight on the television. The ad touted the idea of giving a Lexus away as a gift to a loved one for Christmas. STOP! Is it just me, or does this seem strategically a bit off on multiple levels?

A few things:

1. How many people actually buy someone a Lexus for Christmas? Personally, I think there are many more selfish people in the world. Plus, if you are or have been married, you know that a gift purchase of that magnitude would have at least 90% of the population sleeping on the couch (or maybe your spouse's old car) for most of the holiday season.

2. How many people, even in Lexus' target audience, would be persuaded or further influenced to buy a Lexus as a gift because of a 30 second television spot?

3. How many true Lexus prospects would be watching a Clipper basketball game on a Tuesday night?

I'm sure there are exceptions to the points above, but believe that these are all fairly valid points. They highlight something that I've seen for quite some time: one industry (auto) that continues to overly rely on mass marketing. Marketing to the masses can be like marketing to everyone, which ultimately is like marketing to nobody.

To take a page from marketing thoughtleader Joseph Jaffe (check out his online blog Jaffe Juice), the 30-second spot in its current form is dying....I'll be a bit more diplomatic and call it "evolving" since I personally believe that television itself is morphing, not just the advertising/ad alternatives. TV will soon be an integrated medium, like cell phones, PDAs, and personal music devices. Sorry got off point.....the point is that other mediums, particularly online ones, have proven potential to be more effective as the centerpiece of a company's marketing engine.

Car manufacturers should take note along with every other type of company that has a product or service to promote, and customer relationships to develop. While car manufacturers have dealers in disparate geographical locations, there are more effective ways to communicate and to spend money.

This is where companies get into trouble, particularly in those industries that change more rapidly than the auto manufacturing industry. If a competitor can make their $1 work like $2 to every $1 you have, then you'll be in trouble.

So this holiday season, give the gift that'll make a lasting impression, give a smarter marketing plan. This is the type of marketing that'll look good with or without a bow.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Where to Cast Your Marketing Fish Pole

In planning (business plans, market penetration analyses, new product development) and in practice (marketing plans) it is an all too common mistake made by marketers to zero in on the largest segment of any target audience and to assume this is the market to least first-off anyways, which may be counter-intuitive to the instincts of many that tell them smaller segments are only good as part of a future growth strategy.

While it may be right for some businesses that have done their research and have the right formula, for most it usually is a set-up for failure. Further segmentation of a large audience/segment or targeting of a seemingly less targeted audience/segment can often be the sweet spot for a company.

Two examples of this principle:

In reading a USA today article titled ‘Marketing to the Masses Tends to Miss the Many’, it identifies that the African American community is usually either not marketed to or marketed to the same/generic way as other cultural groups through mass marketing. The example of Royal Caribbean successfully promoting their cruise packages through targeted marketing is a prime example of this. In this case it is a growth strategy. For a competitor though, this could well be a viable option to enter, compete, and thrive.

While working on a branded high-tech dry-cleaning start-up in the dotcom era, my former colleagues and I were trying to decide how to prioritize roll-out plans. We had a map of all the dry cleaners in Manhattan, which was to be our first market. Manhattan has dozens of dry cleaners, more than 700 to be precise. For the consumer side of the business, we initially thought we would just target the areas where there was the most density and the most dry cleaners. Upon further analysis, we realized that we needed to add a few other aspects into the mix, including: targeting residents that would best embrace our brand and considering less dense and less well-served areas where there may be more of a need for our service and less competition to uproot. Sometimes less is more.


My parting thought is this: fishing where the fish are is often the logical and most effective strategy; However, never assume the obvious and be sure to consider whether there are better ponds to fish in. Who knows, the fish may be a lot bigger and more willing to bite your hook.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

First RSS, then Podcasts…So, What’s Next?

Developers/inventors are pioneers of the latest and greatest technology apps. Trend-setting consumers make it spread like wildfire. Businesses ultimately find a way to evolve and monetize new technologies. This is my opinion of what we have seen historically and will continue to see moving forward. Which brings us to today. RSS feeds exploded this year, follow by its Irish twin (within a 12-month period) Podcasts. So, today is November 23, 2005, and I’ve been thinking about what comes next.

Here are my predictions, based on the premises that (1) the recent shift of media/communications control back to consumers/customers is permanent and only in its infancy, and (2) that professionals like so many that I know in Fortune 500 companies - investment banks, marketing, and a multitude of other businesses, currently use a minor amount of company-sponsored resources and a major amount of personal/consumer apps to peform their jobs:

1. Consumer versions of social networking and personalized content will make its way into the business side. Social networking in the business sector will be birthed in a different way than the acquaintance/6-degrees-of-separation networking versions of existing tools such as, the very focused collaborative tool sets that may exist within any niche industries, or the traditional databases, search solutions, or the linear supply chain management solutions that exist for research reports and other types of content.

2. These versions will appear in two major forms: (i) for B2B prospects who are buyers, administrators, decision makers, or influencers within an organization; or (ii) for end users within an organization.

3. For the buyer/administrator segments, vendor management consoles will appear where RSS feeds and Podcasts for all vendors related information/updates/reports, industry media, and other items will be populated, possibly within intranets or other secure online locations. It will a place where administrators and department managers will be able to perch themselves for easy relationship management and customized content views. Similar channel partnership consoles will also appear. So, instead of the big tech companies like Oracle having a partner network that you go to OR an advertising or PR firm having a client intranet to go to, there will be a shift from vendor-centric to client/organization-centric, where their custom information can be pulled rather than pushed.

4. End users consoles will also appear for professionals within organizations, enabling users to have business-like versions of social networking and custom content portals like Yahoo360 (, Google, Orkut, MSN, AOL, and some other small fish. It will be like an enterprise electronic laboratory notebooks are for scientists, enabling them to access, personalize, publish (peer to peer/P2P and also publicly) and disseminate, and manage information. They will have tie-ins into business versions of instant messenger and other communications apps and enterprise versions of enterprise social software/project management tools (e.g. With the flexibility to integrate with internal information, tools, and resources, and there will be one heck of powerful engine for professionals and businesses. An adoption struggle could threaten this wherein businesses will want this type of infrastructure set-up under their umbrella and professionals will want an infrastructure that is portable to go wherever they go, which often means bouncing around the same industry for 20 years.

To summarize:

RSS feeds and podcasts have been the hottest technologies lately. Individuals pushed the envelope with businesses quickly jumping into the fray after picking up on their potential business/customer impact. There will undoubtedly be other individual killer apps that come out, but the next evolutionary step will be to have something that ties these together and in a way that conforms to the seismic shift towards the individual, whether consumer, business decision maker, or the working professional. The impact will greatest in small to medium organizations - particularly start-ups, and working professionals who are business managers at early- to mid-career level positions.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Does Your Brandmark Have a Gender?

I've seen a lot of T-Mobile ads recently as I've considered going high-tech and actually purchasing a Blackberry. In my searches, it grabbed me that "The T-Mobile brandmark is kind of feminine." Yet, their spokesperson for the last few years has been Catherine Zeta-Jones - arguably, more of an (sexual) icon for men based on her historical movie roles.

I am curious to know more about who their current customers are, demographically and psychographically, but am still a bit startled by these observations. I am also curious to know more about the actual process and development work used to create their brandmark/logo/lovemark.

On the topic of brandmark development (BTW: notice my choice in using brandmark > logo...there's a reason!), this is a highly strategic undertaking as I learned from mentors of mine many moons ago. Although there are web or graphic designers who can whip these out for whatever price, the absolute worst thing you can do is to simply task someone to create a logo for you.

In my most humble opinion, the proper process for the creation of your brandmark can be summarized and simplified as follows:

1. understand what your brand means to customers via primary and secondary research, if possible
2. understand what you want your brand to mean to customers and other key audiences
3. survey the competitive and also non-related landscapes
4. analyze positioning and creatives, including existing creatives for your company if already in business
5. start with a number of samples, black & white first
6. narrow down the options
7. move to color versions
8. narrow down the options & refine
9. select the finalist(s)
10. test in target audiences, if possible
11. presto! re-branding done...then comes the real challenge, making operational changes to support the new you.

On a side note, my current company recently updated its brandmark after 20 years in business. We actually did not go through this entire process in creating a new logo. I would have preferred to though and would be curious how the brandmark would've appeared if we did. Either way, I would've actually preferred to have been involved in the creative process, too, had I not been away due to the birth of my daughter at the time! ;)

In summary, brandmarks > logo. Creating a brand or re-branding is really an excercise in strategy, research, and understanding customers.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Your Brand's Co-Pilot = Your Consumers

Marketers can be control freaks and perfectionists. Many marketers and non-marketers think that having control is the only way to obtain perfection. Well, I have a few thoughts that take quite the contrary opinion.

First, I am a believer of the quote that "perfection is the enemy of progress." This means that 90% correct and 30% more productivity is better than 100% correct and 30% less productivity. In this case, 90% is the abitrarily acceptable number that I've chosen, but the concept is whatever the industry and customer will accept. In total quality management principles, closely related to six-sigma, this means the goal post theory (def: the range of acceptable results falls between the goal posts). The point is that you can do more - more than your competition and than you would do striving for perfection - and still be successful so long as you meet your customers' expectation of quality.

Secondly, regarding "control": releasing control is critical to success, in any sized business. Hands on and in tune to what's going on, but trusting your colleagues or direct reports. The key to being able to do this is to have smart people working for you and to have a brand that follows through on its promise/expectations to consumers. If you fulfill these requirements, then you qualify for the chance to take the next plunge: releasing control of your brand to consumers. Yes, it comes with risks. With calculated risks, however, come calculated returns.

In my current line of work - marketing search technology, enterprise software, and information services - this is a theme I return to time and time again in my planning and vision. Sometimes it may be in the form of a company-confined topic, other times it may be a competitive comparison or totally related to a niche consumer-centric need/interest. Whatever the flavor, these concepts have the potential to be wildly successful with proper resource allocation and execution. Doing so in my business or yours can empower consumers to take our brands, relationships, and businesses to the next level. And quite frankly, we all need co-pilots to be successful sometimes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sense & Respond

Was going through some archived marketing materials I have lying around tonight and came across an article that I tore out from Inc. Magazine's August 2005 issue. Two articles grabbed my attention in particular:

1. "A New Syllable From Our Sponsor" - a new ad format that threatens the 30-second tv ad spot/media buy from yet another side - more on this next time.

2. "Knowing What Customers Want" - the subject of this evening's blog posting. The article was about the Japanese arm of the 7-Eleven chain that used "sense and respond" supply chain technology. Essentially, the technology "senses" when an item is pulled from the shelf and "responds" by sending the data to the appropriate information system, pinging it for whatever pre-determined business rule response.

This is certainly a facet that involves much more than 7-eleven's merchandisers and marketing departments. It involves finance/procurement and others, as well as suppliers (both manufacturers and distributors). My point is not to get into the impact value of how's and who's within 7-eleven, however. Rather, it is to highlight the applicability of this concept to other businesses, specifically to building in "sensing" and/or "alerting" features into products, portals, etc.

Sense implies need. In 7-eleven's case is the supply chain need to replenish or prepare to replenish. Sensing is also applicable to other businesses though. For example:

- For content or search related companies, current awareness alerts or xml or rss feeds about desired content/content types
- Cars, such as BWM's new service feature, which calls drivers/customers to inform them when their car needs scheduled servicing

The opportunity exist to automate relevant selling, re-selling, upselling, cross-selling, and relationship building with your constituents. This is a company/provider-centric viewpoint. More importantly, it can increase value, satisfaction, and loyalty for your customers. What could be more important?

So what are you waiting for, determine how you can sense and respond what your customers (will) need.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Direct Response Marketing 101

Marketing tip of the day: 'Sell the Offer' in direct response marketing campaigns! Your ultimate goal might be to sell product, build your database, etc., but whatever your call to action is - that is what you need to sell.

A test I did earlier this year with colleagues to generate leads for a technology product via direct e-mail campaigns to in-house lists had results that support this theme: under a 5% response for the messaging that promoted the product; a greater than 10% response when we promoted the free giveaway. The 10% respondents were further qualified with bona fide leads making it into the greater sales pipeline.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

All Brands & Ads Are Not Created Equal(ine)

Albertson’s recently unveiled Equaline, it's private label health & beauty brand. Design firm Anthem Worldwide, San Franciso, CA, helped Albertson’s, the second largest U.S. supermarket chain, create and launch its new OTC and health and beauty private label brand, Equaline.

According to information located online, "Equaline was created by Anthem as a single, comprehensive OTC, health and beauty brand to house all pharmacy, health and beauty offerings sold under Albertsons five grocery store banners (Albertson’s, Acme, Jewel, Shaws, Star Markets) and two pharmacy banners (Sav-On and OSCO.) The brand architecture for Equaline was created to reference national brand equivalents, while establishing a differentiated, ownable brand. Equaline enables Albertson’s to unlock the potential of 1,240 SKUs in seven categories in 25,000 stores across 37 states."

My two cents on this launch:

- Searches on both sites using the new brand name generated '0 results,' as of Nov.5, 2005 = Poor integrated launch execution
- Design + Packaging = ugly
- Positioning & Messaging = awful! I drove by a billboard on I-5 North tonight heading back to Los Angeles from Orange County, and the ad stated (not verbatim) something along the lines of "Introducing Equaline, Its Our Brand so Why Wouldn't We?"....a super ego-centric advertisement that does nothing to own a unique brand position or special place in consumers' minds/hearts. Likely, this brand will do nothing more than to ultimately compete on price and point-of-purchase convenience with branding, positioning, and messaging like this.
- Branding = the quintessential issue with most generic brands...branding multiple products for multiple and very different audiences makes your brand just that, generic.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Cool Technology Update

Was on a few moments ago for my job and saw this animated person (advertisement) talking to me. Very cool, indeed! Let's you create custom animated characters to put on your website and enhance the customer experience. The demo ad even allows you to type words or phrases in that it will speak back to you. Check it out. Another next-generation marketing tool as your command.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Balanced Calendar

Perhaps the most significant error a marketer can make is to start or continue the cycle of robbing Peter (the current year) to pay Paul (the next year). The year in this case being defined by your audience whether businesses, academic institutions, government organizations, or consumers.

The challenge in marketing is to have a healthy and (**key point**) continuous pipeline of qualified leads that can be converted into sales, and to ensure that the company is meeting revenue projections and per product/line projections.

From the in-house marketing perspective of a company with multiple products, a common scenario that I've seen many times is either not taking a balanced approach. A balanced approach considers projected sales cycle, one-time versus residual sales, existing versus new customer targeting, profitability, how revenue is recognized (e.g. term versus perpetual licenses), etc.

For example, a product with a longer sales cycle may be promoted too late in the year to close deals and recognize revenue. Or, a services campaign that nets a customer who will make repeat sales may not be marketed to until too late in the year to increase the annual value of that customer. Perhaps this is more common to you marketers: there is no budget left in Q3 and/or Q4 so the next marketing spends can only occur in Q1 of the following year, in spite of the fact that "it takes money to make money." Spending in Q1, depending on your sales cycle, could mean leads aren't realized until a few quarters later which is disastrous.

To meet the demands of the current year and to keep a pipeline full into the next year, a balanced spend is required. This requires an ability to understand your audiences, their buying cycles and budgets, your products and sales team, and also marketing and other departmental resources. This is market management which is dynamic. 12-month planning is more of the traditional "marketing management" which is a more static and fixed course philosophy. Of course, as marketers, our calendar is really 22-months - assessing 4months and earlier, dealing with the 12-mo. calendar, and projecting 4months and out past the 12-mo. calendar.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What Marketers Can Learn From Trial Attorneys

It is often said the a court case for which a jury is involved is usually over before it starts. Why? Because you need to get the right people on the jury. As marketers, our targeted audience(s) serve as our jury. We need to first select the right audience to achieve whatever it is our objective may be, then deliver the right message in the right way at the right time. If we choose the wrong people, then regardless of what we do or which tools we use (e.g. direct mail, advertising, integrated campaigns, podcast promotions, etc.), then our chances of success our diminshed from the get go.

Moral of today's blog posting: choose wisely to make sure you don't end up with "12 Angry Men."