Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Putting the Horse Before the Cart

I am never surprised when a client asks me to do advertising right from the start of our relationship. There seems to be a visceral need to do ads, to best the competition, to tweak the world, to make a statement about one's existence and purpose, the I advertise therefore I am sort of thing....often to no avail from a business sense. Sometimes it's hard to dissuade clients from shooting themselves in the foot. The money seems to burn a hole in their pocket much like in my 21 year old's.

So a big part of my job as a marketer is to educate and appropriately redirect. In my class at UCLA, advertising is often what my students think marketing is. In fact, the first class assignment is for them to define marketing from their point of view. My students have taught me that understanding how people think about marketing and the depth of their understanding as to what it is and what it can do, is as important an activity as me developing a strategic marketing plan with all the bells and whistles. My credo is that Every Act Is A Marketing Act....Everyone Is A Marketer, and the only way that can take shape is by education.

Each of us in an organization has a responsibility to making that organization successful. Understanding marketing and the value it adds to the business---no matter where one resides in the organizational chart---is as vital as whatever service or product an organization offers. As a marketer, are you educating your stakeholders to what the best and most correct marketing course of action should be, or are you wimping out and doing what's expedient and in your own best interest? Ultimately, the only true measurement of marketing is if it works and creates and retains business. Everything else is just fluff. And as we all know it's a lot more productive to keep that horse moving when we're sitting on the cart with the reins in our hands, even if the view could be more pleasant.

Keep educating your clients and stakeholders. It's the ultimate responsibility we have as marketers!

Another Great Source of Marketing Information and Inspiration

I highly recommend the following site: www.marketingstudies.net. It's focused, pertinent, right on, etc. Please visit. More on marketing later on today.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Dont Fire Until You See The White of Their Surveys

What an odd turn that market research is showing up in Basra, Iraq with the British forces surveying the local populace as to how things are. An article on the website Middle-East Online discusses how the Brits are doing an operational analysis, where the soldiers out on patrol are not only debriefed after each patrol regarding the mood of the population such as whether the natives were friendly and served them tea, but also once a month they become market researchers with a survey to gauge opinions on specific issues. Fascinating how wars are conducted now. In my Vietnam days, we just blew things up and that was that, assuming that everyone was the enemy. So now marketers are becoming a military specialty. But then again, we've always been under fire.


The FCC has just announced that it will enforce the national Do-Not-Call list! Now that's government in action...and so vital to all of us who registered in order to keep our sanity and our privacy intact. The rub will be in soon to come court actions although President Bush will sign a bill to authorize the FCC to enforce the list.

As a marketer, I have to ask why telemarketers would want to alienate us with their ongoing targeting. The answer is that it's always about money. Telemarketing, strange as it may seem to most of the people I know, is a money maker.


Admiral Hyman Rickover is one of my heroes. He was a terrific leader, albeit a tough one, and tenacious. He had to be in order to develop the nuclear Navy. Here's a quote from him that says so much about leadership and focus: "Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience." Courageous patience is certainly the key construct of his sentiment because he stuck to it through many trials and tribulations. And isn't that what marketing is also about? It takes time to get the message across, to develop the right mix, to bring forth the right product, to engage the marketplace and to develop a brand.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Fortune Business Rules

It's Sunday morning and I'm a bit lazy so thought I'd share something that was sent to me a couple of years ago when I renewed my subscription to Fortune magazine. These "rules" are applicable to all professional and personal endeavors:

Rule #1 Never miss an opportunity to make an ally
Rule #2 The more arms and legs it has, the further it will go
Rule #3 A solo performance is good; a group performance is better
Rule #4 Whenever possible, let the numbers speak for themselves
Rule #5 Where's there's market, there's opportunity
Rule #6 You're only as hip as the media thinks thinks you are
Rule #7 Reinvent yourself
Rule #8 There's no such thing as too much face time
Rule #9 Expand your horizons
Rule #10 Always stay two clicks ahead

See how these apply to your particular situation and enjoy the ball games today. Honey, where's the remote?

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Made in the USA

Look in your closet and chances are you have a pair of Levi's---and probably many other brands that have copied Levi's products and styles. But Levi's has been around for 150 years and truly symbolize an American product. In fact that is what has been sustaining the brand for quite a while, especially the last several years as margins have dropped lower and lower for the company amost to the point of extinction.

An article in the LA Times business section yesterday detailed the final death throes of this brand as a unique American icon born in the California gold rush of the 1850s, when Levi's announced it was closing its last North American plants by March 2004, throwing over 2000 people out of work and completing a corporate strategy of overseas outsourcing. As the article points out, the company's American roots have been an important brand asset and the foundation of its marketing. One of the advertising execs working on the Levi's account stated that his agency is working on continuing this marketing strategy. Stephen Walker, head of a New York marketing firm, said something that should make marketers and consumers pause: "They're using advertising and marketing to perpetuate the myth that they're buying this authentic, classic American piece of clothing. Ultimately, the question probably will become, 'How much does the consumer care that the reality and image are no longer aligned in any way'?"

From the marketingdriven point of view, I don't think it's going to make any difference in an increasingly global world, where price and style often resonate more with the consumer. And when you think about it, look further in your closet and around your house and check out where most the products you use were made. Right. China is certainly a main point of manufacturing, among many other, for nearly everything you use these days. The point here is that often the ability of marketers to spin a tale that creates an emotional connection is often the key to marketing success. My experience is that consumers generally check their rational brain at the door when image and emotion pull at their ego strings and opens their wallets.

Friday, September 26, 2003

My Daddy Can Beat Your Daddy

Now that Congress is sending a bill to give the FTC authorization for the Do-Not-Call List, another Federal judge has ruled that this is an infringement of free speech for the telemarketers. Unbelievable. So another hurdle in our fight for sanity in the marketplace. And why are the telemarketers fighting so hard? Because the return on telemarketing can be as low as 1% and they're still making money. Now you see why the stakes are so high....or should I say so low. Keep up the good fight, Congress.

Spamless in California?

I wish, even though our beloved and embattled governor has signed legislation. My day starts with deleting at least 85% of my emails since I don't need to refinance and my love life is fine. The scourge of the Internet is going to be difficult to find and fine since so many bulk emailers are simply too slick to be pinned down, overseas or otherwise. And anyway, it's going to be hard to serve them with papers. We are indeed like the little Dutch boy trying to stop the leaks in the dam. Welcome to the modern age. Trying to stop spam is like the recording industry trying to stop downloading of their music...lots of luck!

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Working At The Car Wash

Just took my 2004 Maxima to get an oil change and a car wash at my usual establishment, and lo and behold they informed me they didn't have the oil filter for my car yet and offered me a free wash for the inconvenience. I, of course, accepted and went directly to the manager and told him that his guy did the right customer service thing and thanked him. He was pleased and shared that his strength in being the biggest car wash in town was because of that very interaction. So live and learn. Make a customer a long term one by being sensitive to their inconvenience. Comping a free wash bought them much more business and loyalty. Great example of marketing on a basic level that pays off.

Go House of Representatives!

The House just passed authorization for the FTC to implement the Do-Not-Call List. Senate is expected to follow. I guess over 50 million of us potential voters aggravated by the interruption marketing from the telemarketers do carry some clout if not the American Express card. Great news. Consumers strike back. Reclaim the night, so to speak, or at least the dinner hour.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Compassionate Customer Service Should Be The Norm

I've been in healthcare in one fashion or another for most of my adult life, first as a corpsman in the Air Force and an air evacuation medic in Vietnam, to a healthcare marketer for most of my career, and it's always seemed abstract in many ways, removed from the actual giving of the care that brings healing and relief from pain. As a marketer I've always felt a connection to those whom I was trying to influence, believing in the product/hospital that I was "selling". Although I've had little run ins with the healthcare system for my own health issues, a couple of weeks ago my mother was on her way to a lifelong trip to Ireland when the night before she felt ill, thought it was food poisoning and was finally taken to the Emergency Room at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, where she lives.

Heart attack...and there goes the trip. She's recovered and has been home over a week, but the reason for this blog is about customer service at the weakest point in someone's life...when there is illness or catastrophe. The care my 76 year old mother received was stellar, but what was even more significant was the thoughtful, compassionate, dedicated and honest interactions my mother and I both had with those who were in charge of saving her life. Here I am 3,000 miles away and a doctor calls me at midnight to give me a report on my mother as I requested. He talked me through the options, his opinions and counseled me as to the next course of action he was going to make and my role in her care. He called me again a couple of days later and all my calls to her and the cardiac team were returned promptly and I was kept in the loop. Thankfully, I didn't have to be there as she was quickly discharged and my aunt was there for her.

I share this because healthcare is the most intimate of "products" with no way anyone can return it because it didn't work, or whatever. But moving further away from the concept of having no choice---after all with a heart attack you're not going to make any consumer decisions as to who is going to take care of you and hopefully save your life---shouldn't all consumer transactions have some element of what just happened to my mother? Call me naive, but I think the social contract that is triggered by our marketing deserves that kind of "attention to detail." It may not be lifesaving, but it should have more urgency than what we experience too often at the roughshod hands of people who don't really care. As for Mom, well, her dream trip will have to wait...and thousands of miles from her I know that she's in good hands. Thanks UVA Hospital and the staff. I believe in you.

What's With The Courts?

First our beloved California recall was recalled and then reinstated, now the Do-Not-Call List has been injunctioned by the telemarketers, all over some legislative BS whether the FTC had the right to start this. I guess 50 million of us should be upset, don't you think? Enough with the calls and junk faxes and the spam. We want our privacy back. I'm not against marketing to get the message across, but enough of the graffiti against our will. I say send a message to Congress. Reinstate the list.

Marketing Planning

Believe it or not, there is such an animal as marketing planning. I've worked for people who were in analysis paralysis before a decision was made, usually too late, but as marketers we do need to plan and prepare. I tell my students that the hardest part of marketing is preparing for it. It's painful and not much fun...the fun is doing the ads, getting the message out and seeing results. That's why the interview in Time September 29th with Lance Armstrong caught my eye when he's talking about training and preparing to beat those Frogs at their own game in the Tour de France ( I can call them that since I are one from birth!) This quote is powerful and something we should all keep in mind as we market our services, products or whatever: Lance says, "My job is to suffer. I make the suffering in training hard so that the races are not full of suffering." Sounds like marketing planning. It's hard, not much fun, but oh, so necessary so the ride is smoother.

Hey, I'm back. Thanks for waiting. More tomorrow as I've been saving it up.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Out With Clients

Ponder this from one of the greatest sources of understanding the world:

Who said:

Peace to all....see you next time around....Alain

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Wet Paint

I am painting the office, organizing files, waiting for new office furniture and generally focusing on the next steps for marketingdriven.com. The road to success is always better paved with planning and strategy. Later...in the meanwhile ponder this:

Alain's Home.