Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Contact Us and We'll Ignore You

Fascinating statistic in the August 4th Business Week regarding how long it takes to get a reply to an email sent to the websites of the top 100 companies in America:

* Two Days..........58%
* No Response.....31%!
* Three Days.......6%
* Four Days.........6%

Nothing like being ignored...hopefully those emails were not of the 911 category. So much for customer service. The lesson here is if you've got a website, for God's sake use it responsibly as it's a loaded marketing weapon.

Our Next Elected Officials?

Interesting comments in the papers the past couple of weeks from those who have stampeded to run for governor of California. Most obviously concede they'll only get the marginal votes of protest, or simply the weird---I know we're all considered somewhat weird out here. But the one tangible value of running for the office is the attention these people have gotten for their agendas. The one that strikes the most guffaws are Gary Coleman and Mary Carey. Click below and see the happy pols at work!

Governor wannabes Gary Coleman and Mary Carey, 8-27-03.bmp

It's said that there is no such thing as bad publicity---another myth---these two will agree. I'll bet Mary's porn business is going great guns. Now who's the smart marketer?

Alain's Home.

Start Me Up

From the LA Times today in an article about a documentary titled, The Weather Underground , on the '60s radical militant group that helped define the era. Bernadine Dohrn, one of the more notable group members, hits a key point on how the music from the '60s has evolved in the 21st century: "The '60s are presented to kids today as a commodity. The music is used to sell products. Everything is wrapped in a nostalgic haze. It's about things, not ideas...many young people today have a sense that they really missed something."

Depending on how you view the '60s, there's a lot of truth to her comments. Eventually everything becomes a commodity if you're not watching the trends and stay ahead of them. Business is about brands becoming commodities and vice versa. How marketers go about "selling" is as much about creativity that strikes an emotional response as anything else. Remember when you bought your last new car? Was it for rational reasons (like Volvo wants you to think about) or was it the emotion of the occasion and that aphrodisiac new car smell? And keep in mind that branding is really about a memorable experience and nothing denotes that better than the music of the times you were a vibrant star streaking across the sky.

I recall that not long ago there was a Microsoft ad that had the Rolling Stones song "Start Me Up" as the emotional hook. Did I listen along with the rest of my boomer cohorts? I certainly did and I bet the others did. Remember my mantra is Every Act Is A Marketing Act. Everyone Is A Marketer. And that goes for the music we so dearly's another weapon in the marketing arsenal.

Alain's Home.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Generation Gap

If You Were Born Before 1985 you are OLD! And here's proof.

Every year Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin publishes what it calls "The Mindset List"--fun facts and figures about the incoming crop of freshmen so professors will be able to relate to their new students.

Beloit says the list is a reminder that the world view of today's new college students is significantly different from the intellectual framework of those students who entered only a few years earlier. Put another way, it's a reminder that you are getting on in years. One of the list's creators is Beloit professor Tom McBride, who quips, "It is an alert for those of us who may be suffering from hardening of the references." And there's no medicine for this!

So to better understand how the class of 2007 thinks, most of whom were born in 1985, read this and feel your age:

* The people who are starting college this fall across the nation were born in 1985.

* They have no meaningful recollection of the Reagan era and probably did not know he had ever been shot.

* They were prepubescent when the Persian Gulf War was waged.

* There has been only one pope in their lifetime.

* They were 10 when the Soviet Union broke apart and do not remember the Cold War.

* They are too young to remember the space shuttle blowing up on takeoff.

* Tiananmen Square means nothing to them.

* Bottle caps have always been screw off and plastic.

* Atari predates them, as do vinyl albums.

* The statement "You sound like a broken record" means nothing to them. (They have never owned a record player.)

* They have likely never played Pac Man and have never heard of Pong.

* They may have never heard of an 8-track tape. The compact disc was introduced when they were 1 year old.

* They have always had an answering machine.

* Most have never seen a TV set with only 13 channels, nor have they seen a black and white TV.

* They have always had cable.

* There have always been VCRs, but they have no idea what Beta was.

* They cannot fathom not having a remote control.

* They don't know what a cloth baby diaper is or know about the "Help me, I've fallen and I can't get up!" commercial.

* They were born the year that Walkman was introduced by Sony.

* Roller skating has always meant inline for them.

* Michael Jackson has always been white.

* Jay Leno has always been on "The Tonight Show."

* They have no idea when or why Jordache jeans were cool.

* Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave.

* They have never seen Larry Bird play.

* They never took a swim and thought about "Jaws."

* The Vietnam War is as ancient history to them as World War I, World War II, and the Civil War.

* They have no idea that Americans were ever held hostage in Iran.

* They can't imagine what hard contact lenses are.

* They don't know who Mork was or where he was from. (The correct answer, by the way, is Ork.)

* They never heard: "Where's the beef?", "I'd walk a mile for a Camel," or "De plane, de plane!"

*They do not care who shot J.R. and have no idea who J.R. was.

* Kansas, Chicago, Boston, America, and Alabama are places, not bands.

*There has always been MTV.

* They don't have a clue how to use a typewriter.

Ah, to be so young again! Thanks to Netscape for that brief interlude in putting the next marketing cohort in perspective. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Alain's Home.

Monday, August 25, 2003

A CEO That Gets It

How rare to find a CEO that understands that in order to understand your marketplace you actually have to go out and experience it. Such is the CEO of Gilead Sciences, John C. Martin, who saw a greatly underserved market in the jail population infected with HIV/AIDS for the drug Viread. John goes to the source, spending time in jail to talk to the inmates and get a feel for the ultimate user of his products. He's assigned salespeople to the jails now to capture the market, which he is taking away from GlaxoSmithKline, Abbott Labs, et al.

Let's hear it for a hands-on leader who's not afraid to get his hands dirty...not only that he helped Gilead become profitable in 2002. The lesson is that to be a leader you've got to be a lot of things to many people, but the one thing you cannot stop being is someone who clearly understands that success comes from an intimate knowledge of the customers you serve and instilling it in the company's culture. Does that happen where you work? Think about it.

Alain's Home.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Buying My Attention

I am a Hilton Honors member since I've stayed at a few Hiltons on business... alas, never enough to cash in on anything yet. But still I am a "valued" member of the Hilton family, getting occasional emails with the status of my points account and other opportunities to savor specials.

A few days ago, I was offered an opportunity to enroll in e-rewards, a new program that "pays you to read e-mail that has been prescreened to be of interest to you." Blockbuster, Hertz, Vail resorts, American Airlines, et al. are sponsors of "this exciting program." Be still my heart! And there's $10 in e-rewards just for signing up! For each e-mail, "you can earn up to $1 in e-Rewards, plus periodic bonus earning opportunities."

And they said that earning money from the Internet and the comfort of your home was a myth. So it's come down to paying for my attention. Where is all this e-marketing going? Is this part of a trend? The marketing lesson here is that you have to create value for people to stop and listen, and that's what Hilton is betting on. Is there enough to entice people? Hard to say. But for this weary marketer, tired from finishing up his Honey Do list, I'm not responding.

Have a great what's left of Sunday!

Alain's Home.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Fair and Balanced and All Those Other Lies

Al Franken, erstwhile comedic pan of the right and other directions, won his lawsuit brought on by Fox News saying that the use of "Fair and Balanced" in Franken's new book title (Lies and the Liars Who Tell Them, A Fair and Balanced View.....) was infringement, blah, blah, blah. Fox---A Rupert Murdoch empire---well known in Fox LA for the early morning "news people" of the blonde persuasion, with no room for the imagination in the clothes they wear or the incredibly irrelevant pap they spout (Gee, wonder where my bias is?), has further watered down the significance and credibility of news gathering to the point of shoddy jingoism and yellow journalism. And they're complaining about being unfair?

It's getting ridiculous that most of America's so-called news sources are from the main channels who are simply marketing delivery systems chasing the mind share of the unbalanced and unfair. All to say that it's said that in publicity there is no bad publicity as long as it sells, which is why Franken's publisher is printing more books in thanks to Fox for the free marketing. Alas, such is America in the times of "Fair and Balanced."

Alain's Home.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Dude, Dell's Beating Up HP

In this morning's LA Times an article on how Dell cut prices as much as 22% to further erode HP's market share. Dell says it's serendipity announcing this the day after HP announces less than sterling earnings in the 3rd quarter, but others have their doubts. I don't think any enterprise as big as Dell can react that fast so I believe it's been in the works or at least on the shelf until such an occasion occurs.

The marketing lesson is that price indeed affects business, but the other lesson is that Dell's distribution channel and business model of dealing directly with consumers means lower cost and much faster response to a fast changing environment. So as you look at what you do in your business, can you turn on a dime if the opportunity warrants it? And how are you differentiating yourself in order to capture your market share? Are you a Dell who goes directly to the consumer and builds that relationship and trust, or are you stuck with middle men or women---to be PC---who hamper a faster response and greater profits?

The lessons are out and learn.

Alain's Home.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003


The gasoline refiners have a great opportunity to explain what is going on with the increasing gas opportunity to assuage our sanguine thoughts about feeling ripped off. There are always investigations that go for naught, but where do all those extra pennies go?

The marketing lesson is when you've got a product that people cannot do without, you can pretty much dictate what the price will be. But the other marketing lesson is that somewhere down the line, there's payback. Nuff said.

And Speaking of Marketing!

Ahnold now has a plan...he's brought old ideas from George Schultz and Warren Buffett---who thinks we still don't pay enough property taxes---as his advisors. He is really a marketing fool. I was in Beverly Hills this morning and big as day is the Terminator staring down at me. Is that unfair competition? As for me, the Freedom-American, I'm casting my vote for my alter ego, Tintin.

Alain's Home.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Jack Be Nimble

I heard on a business radio station that during the Great Blackout of 2003, Lowe's and Home Depot trucked in thousands of portable generators to their stores in the affected areas and sold them out within hours. Great example of opportunistic marketing and a credit to these two organizations ability to use their channels of distribution to meet an emergent need. Kudos!

The Big Hang-Up

The national do-not-call registry is now up to 31.5 million people. In yesterday's LA Times, in the business section, an article on this list discussed how telemarketers are not that worried because the list pares down those whom have already indicated they don't want to be bothered. The logic is that those who don't register are more likely to be interested and thus offer a more inviting target. Maybe it's simply the telemarketers putting on a positive spin to a bad situation. But be sure to read the fine print as there ways telemarketers will get around certain the list...there usually is.

I love this quote from a 48 year old, former telemarketer (Nothing like a reformed sinner!) who wrote to the FTC regarding this list: "...98% of all products sold by [telephone sales representatives] are products you don't need or will never use. However, we are specifically taught to harass you till either we can con you or you just get tired of hearing from us [and] you sign up anyway."...Very telling and certainly reflects how many people feel.

This morning's email from the weblog BadAds shared one irate person's experience as to how marketers will attempt to get around the do-not-call list. He apparently received a solicitation to vote for his favorite cola, either Pepsi or Coke, and receive a free 12 pack for doing so. However, the caveat was that by responding to this offer, he was giving permission for the sponsors of this solicitation to call him regardless if he was signed up on the dnc list. It's all in the fine print, so do read it carefully. I call this Back Door Opt-In.

Movie Buzz Hurts

Ever wonder why movies are trashed and fall off the radar screen so quickly that they're quickly shuffled off to overseas distribution (No wonder the rest of the world hates us), and sometimes before they're even premiered? Blame it on technology. In another business article in yesterday's LA Times cited the use of cell phones by teens and other ardent movie goers who instantly call or text message their friends regarding the show they just saw, either endorsing or giving the thumbs down to their friends...who then contact their network of friends and so forth. One great quote from Nancy Utley, Fox marketing head: "Consumers are banding together and protecting themselves from all the marketing out there. They want to know if a movie is really worth going to see." Amen.

Remember a few years ago when it was discovered that those movie reviews full hyperbole about specific movies were actually written by the movies' marketers and the reviewers touted were non-existent. And my fellow marketers wonder why were going down the list next to Nixon and car dealers in terms of credibility.

Alain's Home.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Left Coast Election Marketing

I know we're the laughing stock of the nation, and that the rest of the world is also curiously interested in our trying to beach our political Gray (Davis) whale, but you've got to hand it to the land of fruits and nuts...we're a marketing engine. Just look at the idiocy of the "candidates" that have thrown their hats into the race. From Gary Coleman---the pint-sized former actor and sometimes security guard---to Angelyne whose claim to fame seems to be an ample eyeful of breasts,to Larry Flynt (truly a master of media manipulation) to no names with $3,500 to burn and 150 voters to sign their petitions.

But, of course, Arnold is the master. He kept the media, and the rest of us sorely frustrated Californians, in the dark by tantalizing us (actually tantalizing the media which will chase any shadow if there's a potential non-story to make into a "story" especially since the doldrums of August are even more deadly for news since the war in Iraq has droned down to a stalemate of picking off our soldiers one at a time and we still don't don't know if Kobe did or didn't) with his "will he or won't he" strategy. Whew, what a sentence!

So on a marketing tangent, Arnold knows his stuff since he softened up the marketplace and built excitement (if that's what it really is) for an upcoming "product" which will probably serve no useful purpose other than his own aggrandizement, and then announced his launch using the best free publicity in the world through Jay Lenno. While we voters know essentially nothing about how he thinks politically, or manages people, or policy, or his decision making, one thing is clear: he knows how to pander to our weakest element so that we become moths to his unknown political fire. Arnold is packaged and managed by a coterie of professionals that are going to work to make us believe He has risen and the world will be right. But then again in 1966 a no talent actor named Ronnie somehow won the governor's seat and morphed into "The Great Communicator." Ah, California! Look at a great blog Calpundit to get some excellent perspective on this.

In the meantime, if you're a Californian interested in this recall and political free for all, I advise you to vote early and vote often.

Alain's Home.