Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hope And Optimism

I love this time of year. I don't know about your area, but by me the graduating high school seniors paint their cars with the school colors and all sorts of end-of-era slogans. "We Made It" "Good Luck at Cornell" etc and so on.

It just gives me such a rush to remember that feeling of optimism. Of hope for what was to come. For me, it was a university some 450 miles away. On my own for the first time. For some of my friends, it was a new job and beginning a career on the ground floor. For others, they didn't know yet and were going to take the summer and beyond to figure it out. But we all shared a basic understanding that the world was open to us; ripe with opportunity. The summer between high school and college was one of my best. The pressures of high school gone forever, the pressures of college and beyond not yet realized. I had a blast.

So, how does this relate to communications and marketing? It doesn't. I know by now you may be used to me relating the odd recollection or insight back to marketing. And, probably if I really tried I could create some connection. But truth be told, it just makes me fell good. Recharges me a bit. And reminds me to have some fun.

Friday, June 17, 2005

All Marketers are liars?

I finally heard Seth Godin speak. I attended his book promotion in NYC last Wedneday. It was great; thanks for an engaging talk. I love leaving a room pumped up--it's rare today, unfortunately.

One of my key take-aways is that as marketers we are creating a 'want' among consumers, not a need. Agreed. Seth had a few good examples and if you read his stuff or have heard him talk, you can probably think of a few yourself.

And now apparently, even the Wall Street Journal gets it (no link since it's a paid sub). Today's paper had an excellent illustration, in my opinion, of Seth's concept embodied in their article on on Chrysler's Hemi Motor. The article headlines with "Chrylser's Storied Hemi Motor Helps It Escape Detroit's Gloom" to make "...Cars Seem Different."

This is a great illustration of another of Seth's points: Creating remarkable (i.e., worth remarking on) products. The WSJ story opens with a young guy who just bought a Hemi powered Magnum and said of the experience, "The power and mystique of the Hemi made me more willing to go up [in price]."

THE POWER AND MYSTIQUE. Yeah, that's remarkable. I mean, the Hemi is a fast motor, but there are few more out there. None today, however, with the Power and Mystique of the Hemi. You know this guy is going to tell everyone he can that he's got a Hemi under the hood. He spent $5000 extra (according to the article) for bragging rights!

I love it when I can relate a nugget immediately, don't you?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

EBay takes action against 'hoax' Live 8 bidders

Have you seen this? Is Ebay kidding?

I ranted about the number of Lance Armstrong Live Strong bracelets on Ebay almost a year ago. And now we have people trying to use Ebay to make money on yet another cause-related thing. So, first Ebay lets these vultures use their service to uncut this cause. Very Bad. And, now they are 'taking action' against those that are doing what they refused. Yikes!

Ebay -- wake up. You need to draw a line somewhere and undercutting and profiteering from causes and charieties and the good works of others is a good place to do it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Good Enough? Sometimes...

Seth Godin writes recently about our society creating products that are good enough and he ponders if good enough isn't setting the bar too low.


I've heard the mantra that Good is the enemy of Great. In general, I agree with Seth's relentless pursuit of better. But, every once in a while its nice to know that some things can remain constant. It is nice to have everyone agree on screws. It is a pain to try to figure out if the bolt on my 35 year-old VW is a metric or not. That being said...I still don't understand how slot screws have continued to survive. In their case, I'm not even sure they are 'good enough'.

Perhaps 'good enough' is not the issue, but rather it's what we are used to. Is it fear of change??

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hilton a Brand?

I heard today that Paris Hilton considers herself a brand.

"I thought it was cute to play a dumb blonde [on the Simple Life]," she tells Newsweek. "On TV, I do it because it's funny. I consider myself a businesswoman and a brand."

Well, Mom's got a new show based on her name and I don't think it's the hotel positioning that got her there.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Anniversary update or "How Life is Often Like Marketing"

Last week I went a bit crazy looking for the perfect anniversary gift for my wife. It's tough for me, since she really doesn't like jewelry and this being a special anniversary I wanted to get her something enduring, romantic and beautiful. In other words: jewelry.

So like marketers who think they know what their customers want better than their customers, I went on a wild spree looking for the perfect diamond bracelet. I knew if it had a chance in hell, it had to be somewhat unique, beautiful and not too, too expensive. Naturally, I came up with nothing. (I did see one that was mind boggling, but its mid-five figure price tag was a bit out of range)

Not to fear, we were going away for a romantic anniversary weekend. So, I thought, it would be a perfect opportunity to let her pick it out.

Like a marketer launching a product with no real consumer need, I surprised my lovely wife with my romantic idea. And, like that same marketer who wonders why no one is buying the product that no one really needs. My reception was weak. She is so nice. She really tried to act excited. She really tried to act thrilled. She did, however, gently, remind me that she doesn't really wear that much jewelry and now with our 3 year-old, wears even less.

But like any good marketer, I allowed myself to ignore her gentle pleas and took her shopping the next day at a number of fine boutiques. Nothing caught her eye. She was in pain; at one point actually saying: "I'm sorry, I'm trying to find something I like."

Then it happened. As we were strolling along the Avenue among the shops, we began talking about a trip she took the other day when she got completely lost. We joked about how often that happens and I continued, in the joking environment, by saying: "What I really should have done was gotten you a GPS Navigation System for our anniversary." hehehe...

There it was. The Expression. The Joy. The look I was hoping for when I told her about the bracelet.

You see, like too many of today's marketers I didn't really know my customer. Or, more accurately, I knew my customer but decided to ignore the research and do what I thought was best, anyway. I see it every day in my professional life and in my 'consumer' life and I always think: "How can these companies be so stupid?" Now, I know how easy it is, even with the best intentions.

So, now I'm researching GPS Navigation Systems. Perhaps not as romantic or enduring as I had hoped, but I bet my wife will be a lot happier gazing into a GPS than into a diamond bracelet when she takes a wrong turn and ends up in the heart of Newark...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

How to Torpedo a Brand

I was walking through an upscale mall in search of the perfect anniversary gift for my wife (All ideas welcome, btw). This is a trendy mall with upscale shops: Tiffanys, Cartier, Versace all have outposts here. There are Bentleys in the center court instead of Chevys and Fords. So when I saw a fancy, trendy optometrist, Optique, it was no surprise. Nicely decorated, the name spelled out in a stylish font and a well designed retail space. Everything looked great right up until my eyes wandered about 3 inches above the store name to see Lenscrafters—using their somewhat boring font with surprisingly prominent placement.

It was a lot like having a bucket of cold water dumped on your head while daydreaming. I was looking at this hip optometrist imagining all the beautiful people buying expensive, chic eyeglasses, when SLAM—Lenscrafters! Aren’t the ones in the Walmart Plaza?

Here is the thing that the Lenscrafter marketing folk forgot. Creating a brand image is about evoking an emotional response; building the fantasy to the point that it has value in and of itself. The blue box denotes what it contains and so people are willing to pay premium for a Tiffany diamond. No one is going to “pay for the name” if the name doesn’t mean anything. And every facet of the brand, from the way employees dress and act to the store design to the signage, should either work to reinforce that brand position or, at a minimum, not work against it.

If Lenscrafters wanted a store there, they should have put one there. If they wanted to create any upscale brand they should have done that. Merging the two dilutes both brands.

Hi !

When did the idea of customer service at retail degenerate into employees aggressively greeting you as you walk in the door?

I went shopping last night for an anniversary gift for my wife at a fairly upscale mall. I must have went into 12 stores -- I have no idea what to get her -- and in at least 10 of them I was attacked by a well meaning employee: "Hello! How are doing?" "Hi, Can I help you find something?" "Hi" "Welcome" -- Yes, I actually got a 'welcome.'

I also got a surprising number of questions: "Hi, How are you...How 'ya doing" and so on. This is annoying on several levels:
  • I don't know you. You don't really care how I am.
  • It begs an answer, which is the beginning of a conversation. I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to find the perfect gift that will make my wife swoon.
  • I really didn't have time to stop and chat. It was after work, I was trying not to be too late home, lest she suspect (failed that). But brisk responses made me feel rude. So now, I'm late, no closer to a gift and I feel like a heel. ugh.
  • In a number of those stores, I was able to tell with a quick glance around whether it was worth further inspection. Male readers know exactly what I mean. So, being attacked as I crossed the threshold was not helping.
A few of the stores did better. The employees watched me come in, made eye contact with a smile when I looked at them and came over to offer help when I looked perplexed. These employees made themselves available without being intrusive. If I needed them, they helped quickly, pleasantly, and efficiently. That's customer service.

Let's get back to actually helping rather than going through the motions.