Thursday, February 27, 2003

Yes, You Are A Brand!

In this week's Newsweek Pamela Anderson is interviewed about her life and the new Baywatch Hawaiian Wedding show, which is a Baywatch reunion. And, no, I've never watched it, just giving you the facts. But this excerpt in the interview caught my eye: "You've said you now think of yourself as a brand." To which she answered,"Basically, my career is creating a business out of the brand that I've already created. It's going to be great to parlay it all into a clothing line and hair care and skin care...." The point here is if Pamela thinks of herself as a brand---one obviously not necessarily founded on acting talent---then you can be too.

In essence, each of us is our own brand, some more visible and obnoxious and marketable than others. The difference between everyone and Pamela is that she believes it and is acting upon it no matter the talent. It's all about a fundamental belief in yourself and what you can do. It's also about not knowing what you don't know and acting upon that. It's about risk and focus. It's about luck and money and perseverance. I think of the garage band across the street...what drives those kids is that they believe that they can be the next big thing sometime in the future. A brand is as much about hope as anything. It's about understanding what's available and working with it.

So you've got to hand it to Pamela....even if she is marrying Kid Rock, she's out there doing it. What about you?

Alain's Home. Keep those comments coming's like the sound of one hand clapping:

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Joe Millionaire et al.

Flipping through the channels last night I stumbled onto the last half of the final episode of Joe Millionaire. I can't say I'm much for these so-called "Reality" shows and have not watched any of the Survivors or others, but I was immediately attracted to the show by the casualness of the interviewer and "Joe" and his chosen one. There was a comfortable sort of feeling to the setting, with a nice fireplace, a living room, cozy atmosphere, something very familiar. All good packaging, which is often what marketing is all about. It made me think about the success of this show---which had very high ratings, far higher than the producers expected---and it's predicated on something basic to all marketing; mainly that people want what's known in their lives. They have enough decisions to make in their lives so make it easy for me when you sell me, or entertain me. That's why there are so many copy cat shows and products, taking what's known an incremental step further.

Joe Millionaire was successful because it allowed our TV sets to become a mirror of what we are by reflecting our fantasies and values. With all the stimulation we have in our daily lives, all the demands, expectations, needs, and stress, we don't want to have to think at the end of a long day. We want family, whether real, extended or on the tube to comfort us, to talk with, to share values with and most of all just be. TV reality, with it's zillion channels covering nearly every segment of the human experience has in a very real sense become a family member. What the producers of this show did was understand that concept very keenly so they could mine the emotional connection to the nth degree. More viewers, more sponsor dollars, more sales. It's that simple and that's really knowing your audience...and Marketing 101.

Alain's Home . For comments: Thanks.

Monday, February 24, 2003

How Sky Pilots Sell Salvation

When I was in Vietnam as an Air Force air evacuation medic (Yes, I'm that long in the tooth and that young in the mind), we used to call the chaplains Sky Pilots. In fact there was a song by a group I can''t recall by that very name and not so complimentary of chaplains sending men off to battle with God on our side. The song was banned by our illustrious leaders because it was thought it would have a demoralizing effect on the troops---as if the war already didn't. Of course, bootleg copies were available everywhere and often played in the you can see music piracy did not just arrive with the Internet. All of this to make a point about the marketing of God, churches and salvation.

Every Saturday in our local newspaper, there's a religion section loaded with ads for churches. All seem to be claiming legitimacy as if my God can beat your God sort of thing. Some ads are downright flagrant, while others appeal to those seeking spiritual salvation in a troubled world and offer all the amenities in order to compete with other less spiritual endeavors on Sunday (like sleeping in) and with other churches. Some preach a "Living God" while others offer a "Living testament to the power of Christ" and yet another's ad proclaims, "Practical. Spiritual. Fun." I'm not making any judgment calls here about the value...that's an individual thing. But the use of marketing to harvest the sinners is becoming a paragon of what true marketing is all about.

An article in this Saturday's The Press Enterprise, examines the use of multi-media by a church in Grapevine, Texas, which attracts 16,000 worshipers to a church with theater-like seating and light shows. It is a stage-managed organization. The stage can be changed according to the message and the the main pastor (there are several at most large churches) once preached about God's Army from an Army tank brought on stage. Amazing. Effective. And targeted marketing. God as entertainment is one way to get to those souls and it works. As one of the church's minister claims, "This is the language of this emerging culture---sound and image." Amen to that.

A couple of years ago, I told my class about a little church in my county that had its first woman minister. She'd been brought in to save an ailing church. She was able to double attendance and extend her ministry into other areas within one year. When interviewed about her success, she told the reporter that her success belonged to the Big Guy, but that she edged her bet by writing a marketing plan and following it. Hallelujah!

So what do churches have that your business maybe doesn't? A plan---perhaps one with more celestial power than most---but still a mortal plan. Just watch the evangelists and you can see the best and the worst about marketing and manipulation. But look at the every day churches that extend their minstry beyond their walls and bring succor to an anxious world and you've got to hand it to them: They know their audience, have positioned their services in the marketplace, honed their message strategy, developed a consistent media plan and then followed their vision. That's real marketing and it's been around for a long time. Now you know why I am a Minister of works for everything, especially when you want to do good.

Comments to: Thanks.

Friday, February 21, 2003

A Marketing Walk

I just walked a couple of miles to my local pharmacy to pick up prescriptions and it became a marketing walk. A couple of years ago, it was estimated that we are bombarded by 3,000 marketing messages per day. Makes me wonder what it could be up to now. When you think how intrusive this can be, it's no wonder that my more ethical marketing colleagues at times despair at what we are about. Maybe marketers will now take the illustrious rank below car salesman. Anyway, on this walk from my residential neighborhood, I walked into the land of Oz with service stations, strip malls and sundry other stores. On every telephone post were those flyers about how you can earn a gazillion dollars working for home, or lose hundreds of pounds by simply breathing. And of course this being the beginning of the weekend, the ubiquitous yard sale signs were proliferating. Everyone is a marketer.

In every shop window of the strip malls were so many signs with the "specials" to entice shoppers to put on the brakes and get that 12 pack of Coke for only $3.99, etc. So it went, to the point that you could barely see inside the stores. I thought how difficult it must be to be in retail to eek out a living penny by penny. Garish signs from McDonalds, Jack in the Box, to the local supermarket lit the sky, and the local Mobil had an array of balloons high in an arc above the pumps as if announcing to the world that the price of gas had yet again risen.

At the pharmacy, more signs shouted at me and as I waited in line to pick up my prescriptions, standing behind the red line, I noticed that conveniently placed on the floor before a display of cereals were the jolly figures of Captain Crunch pointing the display above. And from the ceiling more displays and arrows pointing to bargains yet revealed beckoned. Man, I was on overload by the time I safely stole away to my quiet residential enclave only to find my neighbor placing a yard sale sign in his front yard. There goes the neighborhood!

All to say, that merchandising is what makes the world go round, but when is enough enough? Do we have to be pummeled by ads and tricks in order to buy something? You can't even go to the movies without the obnoxious ads before the show, just when you thought you could get away from it. And in a local restaurant I frequent near UCLA, there are so many advertisements in the man's john that it may be the only reason the walls don't fall down.

This marketing graffiti is too much. Maybe that's why when we go out and people ask me what I do, I just tell them I'm a lawyer...that way I know I'll be left alone.

For comments: Thanks and have a great weekend, hopefully marketing free.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Let's Hear It For The Post Office...They Get It!

My small local post office is overcrowded, there is usually a line and the p.o. folks are friendly, helpful, not glum government workers, but real live, genuine people. How different than when they were the only show in town. And they cross-sell all the time, asking me if I need more stamps, etc. Would that more businesses had these attributes and perhaps the economy would work better.

Another example today, when my wife went to pick up a certified letter for my 93 year-old mother-in-law who is in a nursing home with a broken hip. Mrs. couldn't pick up the letter due to regulations, but the p.o. guy said that if she brought my mother-in-law by car, he'd stepped out of his space and verify who she is and then come back with the letter. So we had curb side service with a smile. How rare is that? Very. And this was in San Diego, where the sun always shine and a sometimes big city attitude prevails. All to say that competition is good for all of me an unreconstructed capitalist.

The lesson here is that customer service reigns supreme. I know we talk a lot about it, but it's a mantra that is worth repeating. If the p.o. can do it, what about your business? Have you set a customer service iniative in place, one that really works? To establish good customer service, you've got to hire right and instill that essence that reflects your vision. It's not about another vision statement on the wall, it's about action. Ultimately, marketing is as much about action as it is about plans or ads. What really matters is how the customer felt when he walked out the door. Today, the U.S. P.O. gets our vote.

BTW: If anyone happens to stumble onto this log and wants to give me comments, please do so at or log on at Thanks.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Targeted Mail Works!

An article in the March 3rd issue of Forbes has really made my day, hell, my week. I am a proponent of CRM, Customer Relationship Marketing, or database marketing or one-to-one, or whatever you want to call it, the point is that by knowing your customers and your potential customers you can effectively give them what they want and do your bottom line a favor. I preach this with my clients and in my class....often to no avail because building a database is hard work, not the glorious stuff of marketing like designing ad campaigns.

So the article in Forbes discusses the fact that while Readers Digest and Time-Life, among others, have pretty well dispensed with direct mail to sell their wares, Rodale Press is taking it on with a vengeance. And doing it the right way. By tracking what people are interested in and developing products that target these interests, Rodale has effectively used the direct mail route to sell books with a significant drop in returns. The article states that in 2000, Rodale sold 6 million books through direct mail but had 2.4 million returns, while last year using the new database approach it sold 3.2 million books but only had 200,000 returns---a far greater return. "We've cracked the code, exclaimed the CEO, Steven Murphy.

Using its 25 million-customer database it has amassed over the past 61 years in their unique business, it sliced and diced the database to get down to the most narrow of interests and then target offers that rang true to the recipients. It's been so effective that Simon & Schuster and Houghton Mifflin are using the Rodale database to sell their own titles in the so-called health-fad business.

Too often when I ask a client about their database of customers and what they know about them and how to use that data to customize offers and service, I get blank stares and my promulgating the idea is at times taken akin to my asking for their first-born. Please folks, use databases and use them's an investment well worth taking. Make your junk mail work for you! Amen.

Thursday, February 13, 2003


Now is the time

It's a Small, Small World (Apologies to Disney)

Marketing is as much about networking as it is about the 4 Ps. I see networking as a vital strategic function if a business is to survive...whether a a retail establishment and its network of returning and satisfied customers, or a small consultant firm like mine. It's all about connecting in the most personal way in an honest and credible manner...what you see is what you get.

I've been lucky in my career in that I've always met the people I was supposed to meet and connected to develop fruitful relationships on a business and personal level. That's what I love about consulting, I get to meet interesting people who enrich my journey by leading me where I am supposed to go. The theory of Six-Degrees of Separation does apply here and in the February 2003 issue of Harvard Business Review, pages 16-17, an interview with Duncan Watts, a sociologist at Columbia doing research on this very phenomenon, brings it even more clearly in focus. Taking the concept further, Watts, a network theorist, is using the Internet to confirm this process which has become mythological in our minds. He states, "...And what we seem to be finding is that the small-world phenomenon is not only real but far more universal than anyone thought. The principles that apply to social networks, and account for the six-degrees phenomenon, seem to apply to many other kinds of networks as well. That could have implications for understanding practical problems like how ideas spread, how fads catch on, how a small initial failure can cascade throughout a large network like a power grid or a financial system--even how companies can foster internal networks to cope with crises." As a marketer this is powerful stuff in helping me understand how to position ideas through networks that will create "the buzz" and build the business I am hired to promote.

On a more recent and personal application, my good friend, Rommi O'Brien, the Chief Marketer at one of my clients, proved this theory to nearly two-degrees of separation. I have a client who needs someone to help manage her everyday activities from TV appearances to working with her publicist and busy practice. When I discussed this with Rommi if she knew anyone with the critical thinking and management skills for this, she turned me on to her "super bud" who called me to see how he could help. I thought he was the one applying for this job when it turned out he is the senior vp at my client's publicist (someone lower down on the food chain at his firm), with whom I am meeting tomorrow to discuss the very subject. How close is that? It is indeed a small, small world.

It all goes back to an adage I learned early on in my business: Eveyone is a potential customer no matter how remote they may seem. That's why good marketers, sales and PR people understand that all roads do lead to Rome and we are all Romans. Thanks Rommi. You're the best.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Catch Up Observations

I highly recommend the February 2003 issue of the Harvard Business Review as it is chock full of valuable articles about marketing, strategic thinking and operational process. The article on Negotiating the Spirit of the Deal hits the mark in its illumination about the social contract that is too often not addressed after all the details of a deal have been finalized. It is really about a true meeting of the minds. I have an excellent example of a company I worked with last year which had merged and done all the legal and financial paperwork, but had never really discussed what they thought they had accomplished, what it meant to them or how they were going to meet individual and collective expectations. That was seen as too soft, not business-oriented at all until they realized how they were faltering because of all that had remained unsaid. Equally compelling articles in this issue deals with ideas in the marketplace and how organizations deal with them, or too often ignore them or punish the interloper into the established process. Another eye opener.

In the February 2003 issue of Wired an excellent article about saving each and every piece of data so that we are in Memory Overload. As a marketer and teacher, I know only too well that I keep too way too much data, too many articles I plan on using for class or for commentary and too many backups that I never get to. As the author, Jim Lewis, states, "We've lost our sense of when to press 'pause'." As he elaborates, "Record 24/7 and you'll never have time to watch." Think about your own overload in your busy life. So much to do and remember and so little time. Now apply that to all the marketing messages that clutter our minds each day and you can see the difficulty marketers have in getting through to our customers with something worthwhile to say.

A McDonald's Update...apparently in an effort to attract more kids to their McFat menu, the Golden Arches will be giving our sons and daughters two toys with each purchase. I now notice that Burger King is doing the same. So it goes in Fast Food Land, where reality is as fleeting as a 99 cent burger. On another note, McDonald's is putting the heat on their advertising agencies to come up with a softer, warmer ad approach. When all else fails and if the products is not what people want, create more demand for it by shaping the message so that it makes an emotional statement and feels good. How dumb is that? If the demographics, changing taste and nutritional awareness are impacting sales, an advertising focus is not simply going to kick up the sales...for that you've got to create value. Stay tuned.

While the Dell Dude may have gotten busted for trying to buy some pot on the mean streets of New York (How dumb is that when there's so much of it available everywhere else?), Dell is busy pushing its brand even further by setting up kiosks in Sears and other stores so that customers can try their computers before ordering it. This retail approach is yet another innovation to continue the market leadership they have. Their numbers show that they seem to know what they're doing even if the Dell Dude is in custody with a bad case of the munchies.

Let me know your thoughts at . Cheerio!