Friday, October 31, 2003

Product Placement and Timing

In this morning's LA Times, jr. got a special treat that made his eyes light up: a trick or treat bag advertising the new Eddie Murphy movie, The Haunted Mansion, on one side and on the other Brother Bear. Very welll done and a deep bag for all the tons of candy jr. will haul in tonight. Very creative.

Lesson here is that product placement success has to do with timing and today's was right on the mark. Both movies are top-of-mind, kids are out of school and tomorrow's sugar hangover will be perfect to lay low at the movies. Now the proof will be in the receipts from the movie houses.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Bad Press

As a healthcare marketer, I've just about seen it all when it comes to bad press. But this morning's Wall Street Journal front page article about hospitals having people arrested for not paying their bills certainly is one for the record books. This is a continuing focus of the Journal, having covered a story several months ago of a retired man in New Haven, Connecticut, who lost his house because of the continuing interest on a debt he'd been paying on faithfully for years. That exposure made the hospital rethink its collection tactics and the man got his house back.

This morning's article deals mainly with a hospital in Illinois, Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana-Champaign. The stories did not make the hospital look good at fact if this had happened at the hospitals I worked for, the bad press would have probably gotten me my walking papers. The individual stories of hard luck cases was compelling, although many of the so-called scoflaws also contributed greatly to their own demise. But still should hospitals take people to collections? Should hospitals give the working poor and retired without insurance coverage the same discounts they give to others with health plans? How do we handle the growing mass of uninsured in our society? And who pays? Should healthcare be a right or a privilege? All hard questions.

The key point in the articles is that the business decisions some of these hospitals made gave them a black eye. To be fair, how do hospitals stay open without being paid? That's one of the issues. But back to the bad would you feel about going to a hospital that will take people to court and then have them arrested if they don't pay up? Especially when it involves your kids? Or Mom or Dad or spouse?

Lesson here is that regardless of the business decision, healthcare is about people's lives at the most vulnerable juncture of their lives. The hospital should have taken that approach in their response to the Journal. The CEO not knowing that the cases were that extreme is not an excuse ever. It's on his watch. And if this is the case, he should take the case to the public and build consensus about the issue and look for a community-based solution. The lesson here is that managing your business can sometimes put you in the media's eye and give you bad marks. Be ready at all times and incorporate the highest ethical standards in what you do.

Fire Sale

At world headquarters we've been watching the firestorm that has engulfed our part of paradise swirl around us. The one fire we were most personally concerned about was several miles to the east of us and has been 100% contained. Our concerns are with the mountain areas, where it seems nothing can stop the onslaught and people's lives are being torn asunder.

The marketing angle I notice with this morning's paper is with the deluge of advertising using the fires as a way to get more public visibility and enhance the image of good corporate citizenship. The one ad that especially caught my eye was a BMW dealer offering a $25 donation to the American Red Cross for every person who comes in for a test drive. Others included many hotels and motels offering discounted rates for fire victims. And then there are simply the ads of support, some actually tastefully done, that express support for the firefighters and those caught up in this tragedy.

Is there a point where advertising and marketing should stop when tragedy hits? Is it ethical for a car dealer to bring people in the door with the lure of a donation? When 9-11 happened many companies did no to little advertising. It's a fine line, I believe, but the economy and business does have to go on if recovery is expected. People still have to pay bills, cars still have to be sold, lives still have to have some normal constructs as the rest of the world falls apart.

The lesson is that marketing essentially never stops, even during times of great societal stress and tragedy. Done with sensitivity and genuine understanding of the human condition, it has its place. The question marketers have to ask themselves is where is the balance between business as usual and a sense of community? Marketing should be about community anyway, regardless of the circumstance, while staying true to the edict that marketing is also about opportunity when it presents itself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

This 411 Call Is Going To Cost You

Remember when calling 411 was free? Information was a given with phone service and then the phone company got wise and decided to begin charging for it. This is called another "revenue stream" in the parlance, or another "marketing channel." In today's mail, we received a generous offer from ATT&T Wireless, where Mrs. has her cell, that we can "dial 411 and win." Gosh, the offer was so exciting we almost dropped everything else of importance, especially since the deal is that it would cost us $1.25 per 411 call---plus whatever standard air time charges your plan calls for---for the nearly breathless opportunity to win an American Express gift check for $1,000 or several other great prizes of more gift cards in the $25 to $100 range.

Does AT&T really believe that people with a scintilla of brains would really fall for this? Apparently some marketing guy said, "Hey, let's do a contest so that those poor saps will make us more money by calling information on their cells instead of looking in their PDAs or, God forbid, the yellow pages." And let's make the brochure showing all these happy people making cell calls, people we can really identify with. Enough already. Marketers, give us a break. There are already way too many stupid ways for us to part with our money without an already creeping phone bill.

Lesson here is that to make a contest worthwhile, know your audience. How can something as mundane as calling 411 be such fun? It's a wonder marketers can even look themselves in the mirror in the morning. Do you think about the pap you put out as marketing? Does it really enhance the brand, bring joy to the customers, make them feel good about their choices, or does it simply alienate them further? Good marketing is also about sensitivity. If I want to be insulted by someone, I'll go to a local high school and take in the culture.

Icy Slopes

Planning is like walking on an icy slope, you never know when you're going to slide into a crevasse. I have found that the reason people are often against planning is that it can expose the weakness of their division, organization or leadership, and that may be difficult to do ego wise. Ironically, that's the very reason to do it, but it takes an organization that doesn't punish you for showing a willingness to show weaknesses that you want to fix or opportunities you want to exploit even it goes against the grain. The No Fear philosophy.

Planning is essentially about brainstorming and sometimes it seems that there's very little time to do that. "I've got too much on my plate," is a common refrain, thus it's business as usual. Once again, that's the very reason to do this because you sometimes have to clear your plate in order to see the bottom of it.

I'll leave you with this quote that I found in Time last week. It's from an interview with Ann Bancroft (not the actress) and Liv Arnesen, baby boomer women who became the first women to cross Antartica by foot---a 1,700 mile trek for nearly three months in temperatutes that tipped below -35 degrees farenheit. It seems so appropos to planning and focus: "It's about working together. It's about mental toughness and stick-to-itiveness; it's about making prudent decisions. It's the hardest work you've ever done in your life, but it's also the joy of our life. It's not about individual brute strength."

The lesson is not that planning is like crossing the Antartic by foot, but it may seem like it. But it is about staying focused to the primary goal and making those prudent decision that can make a difference whether the organization is successful or not. Marketing planning is about hedging your bet and in that sense it's a slick slope.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Fear of Planning

In the 70s, during the so-called Sexual Revolution, Erica Jong published a book called Fear of Flying...needless to say it was a seminal work and I bring it up only to pique your interest about marketing planning, although I must admit I'd love to see a Marketing Revolution take place. In my career and in teaching, I've found that marketing planning is the least appetizing aspect of marketing and most often rejected aspect of our craft. Sad since it's one the most important things we must do, if the least glamorous and most tedious.

I bring this up because a potential prospect is moving forward with hiring a PR person to feed the visceral and emotional need of the organization that "something is being done," although the real need is to step back and assess the situation, prioritize and then "Do the Dew" towards successful marketing. The VP understands this, but is up against the wall from the CEO and other executives to make something happen. Too often the case and such a waste. How can the new person hired even be effective if he/she doesn't know in what direction the organization needs to go? A formula for continued failure.

Planning is not something that you do once, it's something that you do every day and with every act. A plan is not simply the end all of your activities, it's only a road map and sometimes there are sig alerts in your way and a new direction or alternate route needs to be taken. That's the beauty of planning, it allows you to punt when you need to because you understand the organization's goals and the resources you have available to meet those goals in spite of challenges and/or opportunities along the way. It's also the problem with many organizations because too many think that marketing is essentially age old lament, I know.

I've also reported to VPs of Strategic Planning whose only role, so it seemed to me, was to analyze and plan something to death all resulting to missed opportunities. Analysis paralysis is something that is endemic in healthcare organizations, where I do most of my work. The key is to plan, to gather up the information, to swoop into the organization and creatively sense what needs to be done, and then act. I'm developing a marketing planning workbook for my next class in January and will share it on these pages.

The lesson is that planning is important and selling the planning process is the beginning of planning. And then action based from the plan speaks louder than anything you can do. No matter how basic a plan, it's vital that you as a marketer have a script to work from and to lead your organization in the arena where your expertise lies. Planning helps you be more successful.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Marketing is Leadership and a CEO That Gets It!!!

An article from the Wharton School that absolutely stirs the cockles of my heart, whatever those are. It's about David Pottruck, CEO of Schwab, who discusses the firm's refocus on the customer in at talk a the Wharton School's second annual CEO Summit. Imagine that! Pottruck is a marketer that made it to the top, a rare breed I believe as so many CEOs come from the financial end and don't truly understand the power of marketing. Ah, another bias.

Pottruck's quote that I now have enshrined in my heart stirs to the very core of what marketing is about: Our job as marketers is to develop the things that don't exist. I don't want to go head-to-head with the competition. I want to go around them. Touche. Too often trying to say that mine is bigger than yours fails miserably. It takes a unique approach to meeting customer needs and creating new products and services that enhance the customer relationship not mimicking the competition.

He goes further in detailing the failure of marketing to make its case in organizations, especially the fixation on advertising to do the heavy lifting, which in the long run means that marketing gets axed when the CEO has to impact the bottom line as advertising can seem to be superfluous: "Let's face it. There's a lot of bad advertising out there [I totally agree!] The CEO looks at these ads and says, 'I don't understand the consumer proposition. I don't understand what the unique message is. It's stupid. I'd rather take the money and give it to the salesmen.'"

Ah, I wonder if there's a position at Schwabs?

Lesson here is that marketing has to bring value to the organization otherwise it's like a turkey on Thanksgiving eve, the ax is the only outcome. And that can be done by doing the hard work of marketing, attention to details, understanding the business better, making the divisions or organization shine in its customer service, bringing forth a marketing mindset instead of an afterthought. And most importantly, it's about working as a team within the operational components of the organization...that and a lot more. Read the article marketers. It could save your jobs!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Spam in the Morning

First thing many of us do in the morning is fire up the computer and whamo, there's the spam. I've been keeping tabs on my email accounts and find that nearly 80% of my email is spam. It is so invasive and becoming so rude that it's a wonder that people even go online. An interesting study came out today from Pew Internet and American Life Project on spam. I highly recommend it as it delves into this very topic in depth and should be a required read for all marketers. Go to: The report is titled Spam: How it is hurting email and degrading life on the Internet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Logo Police

A potential client relays this story: "We hired a guy from a big ad agency to be our marketing guru. He wowed us with his credentials and personality. He didn't have healthcare experience, but we figured it didn't matter, we thought he was that good. But all he's concerned about is being the logo police and getting a comprehensive look for the brand, and besides he's not making any friends around the place." Further discussion indicated that there is no strategic marketing plan in the works and no indication that key projects have been put in the priority queu.

Classic story, one that is repeated over and over. Hire an advertising guy and guess what you get? Advertising and the logo police. Not that advertising and proper management of the logo are not important, it's just that they're not the primary focus of marketing. And, yes, I am biased about advertising as I don't think it solves anything if not used in the proper context of the marketing direction. Advertising is a tool in the marketer's arsenal, but it's not the end all. And too often people equate advertising with marketing, which is where they get in trouble, such as this prospective client.

Before you can develop a brand approach with all the bells and whistles, logos, taglines, etc. you've got to understand the business and the particular marketing situation you're trying to solve. Understanding the strategic goals of the organization and setting priorities based on those is vital to success. Before you communicate, you've got to initiate....much like if the glove doesn't fit you've got to acquit.

The lesson here is you've got to understand what you are really buying when you hire someone to do your marketing. It's easy to get wowed by slick campaigns that worked for someone else, and won awards. The real question is, what do you need to accomplish for your organization? And how well do you understand how the marketing process works? The hard work of marketing is in the details...advertising is the easy part and the most visible. Don't get fooled by it, it's what advertising does.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Playboy...the Brand of Course, Not the Pictures!

I note where Playboy is now celebrating it's 50th anniversary and getting a big bang out of it (excuse the pun.) I remember when it was the most risque magazine around and as a young airman in Vietnam, Playboy bunny logos were de rigeur on everything from tanks to your trusty M-16. But after 3 years of no profitability, the 50th is an opportunity to reclaim the brand and bring in a new breed of interested young men trying to find out what the world is about.

A new book----Playboy: 50 Years, the Photograph---has already sold out its first printing of 100,000. It makes me wonder about how the first Playboy bunnies are looking now----I know it's a sexist statement as I'm getting long in the tooth as well. But the message is there as the Hefner empire continues to reinvent the brand, especially its online division, which is doing relatively well and according to CNN Money, the brand is beginning to appeal to a new demographics. I guess when it comes to this product, it never gets old.

The lesson here is that a brand never dies if the soul of the company won't let it. And one that's been around 50 years has something to say to this generation as it did to mine. What is your brand saying about you?

Legal Seafood

An endorsement for the above seafood restaurant in Boston, a local chain that knows how to do it well. It was a very busy night, the Red Sox were playing the Yankees, the bar was full, people were waiting in line, the waiters were flying around table to table....and the service and attention to detail was superb.

I had a great view of the hostess and manager greeting each person with spirit and a can do attitude. Our wait was an unbelievable 25 minutes and the line was long! We were greeted by bread and water and a waitress who didn't care if we knew her name or zodiac sign...her concern was taking care of us hungry pilgrims to this fine establishment. Her recommendations were excellent, her timing perfect, all while managing several tables. I was thoroughly impressed. What was distinctive was that all the staff kept their wits about them in spite of the onslaught...they were well rehearsed and everyone pitched in to take care of the customer.

I've told my 21 year old that waiting tables is a training ground for presence of mind in a crisis. It's a multi-tasked business with demanding folks and you're only as good as your last meal served. It's service under fire and the true test of an organization.

The lesson is that hiring right and training for all contingencies is what distinguishes a marketing driven company from the rest. Legal Seafood understands that as the manager related to me as I commended his servide and food. It's a part of our culture he said. It shows. So how's your service culture?

Monday, October 20, 2003

Keep Your Powder Dry

While in Vermont last week, the marketingdriven.coms took the ferry across Lake Champlain and visited New York and Fort Ticonderoga. The history of the fort is significant to the American Revolution in that Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, accompanied by Benedict Arnold---before he did a back flip---captured the fort on May 10, 1775. Allen only had 80+ men to the British 1,500 but Allen knew something that was significant in his decision to attack. He had learned that due to the damp weather that the British were drying their powder for their muskets, apparently a constant problem in those days, and thus would not be able to fire on his men. This was the first significant victory in the Revolutionary War and had a great impact on other fields of battle since the canons from the fort were shipped to General Washington's forces in the Boston area and were crucial in the defeat and withdrawal of the British from that area. It made me think about how one piece of information in any enterprise can be the deciding factor between success and failure.

The lesson here is market intelligence can make a difference in any campaign, military or marketing wise. Knowing what is going on in your marketplace and with your competitors is critical to marketing success. Being decisive with that information is also important. So are you keeping your powder dry and keeping tabs on the competition's powder as you evolve your marketing strategy and tactics?

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Vermont, the Customer Service State

The marketingdriven.coms have just returned from a week in Boston and Vermont, where the fall colors were at their peak and the state of excellent customer service is alive and well. Vermont, with only about 600,000 citizens, is very much in tune as to where the paychecks come from...and those hardy souls act like it matters that you're satisfied. From Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory to the little shops in Middlebury and the cheese factories, everyone we met was solicitous of our satisfaction without being over bearing. Just genuine folks doing their job as it should be done, with the customer in mind. It made this old marketer's soul soar above the many hues of the leaves at the profound opportunities that all companies should be doing what Vermonters do by rote and with spirit.

The lesson is that if an entire state can adopt a customer oriented culture then any organization and business can as well. So what are you doing to Vermontize your company?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

On Hiatus

Loyal fans, I will be on hiatus until around October 17th. Going to see the fall colors in Vermont. Good marketing to you all. Alain

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

The "Eyes" Have It

Another customer service story from yours truly. I had my eyes checked last week and got a new prescription. With our plan, I could get a new pair of glasses for a nomimal fee, so I did. But since we are going on a trip to Vermont to see the Fall colors, I decided two days ago to get a new pair of sunglasses and went to LensCrafters since they advertise they can make a pair within one hour.

Chose a nice frame, gave my prescription and came back an hour later, and bingo, new shades. When I tried them the vision left a bit to be desired but the clerk said, "It's a new prescription, and they might take some getting used to." I was game, although my regular new pair didn't need "getting used to."

Today, I went back to LensCrafters and told them the glasses were really bothering me and volunteered that perhaps the prescription had not been correctly followed. They said, it was done right and to verfiy the prescription from my optometrist. So I schlepped relunctantly there and explained my situation. That's where the customer service became a classic. The young woman clerk there said her main concern was that I see well regardless of where I got the glasses; she checked the prescription and found that they had indeed been processed significantly incorrec in the right lens and that they had tried to fit lenses onto frames that they shouldn't because of the lenses size. She then called LensCrafters, spoke to the manager on my behalf and explained her findings, and sent me back to rectify the situation. But when I got there I requested a refund...which was given with apologies and understanding. My trust in their ability had been eroded and the convenience of one-hour glasses didn't seem such a hot deal anymore.

Back to my original optometrist I went and found new frames that will suit my lenses best and received more features than the ones I just returned...all at a discount and cheaper than LensCrafters,which had already given me "discounts." Okay, so it's a long story but the situation is instructive in terms of winning the customer service war and gaining a very grateful client. True, I won't have my glasses for a couple of days and will be on my vacation when they're delivered, but my peace of mind is truly there.

The lesson is that people buy for various reasons at various times...sometimes it's convenience, price, looks, whatever, but customer service is also about trust and the ability to feel good about the purchase. The young woman at my optometrist took care of me without consideration of recompense and in the long run her company got the business. The key here is that customer service comes in many ways and situations, and it's ultimately about sensitivity and respect and seeing customers as individuals. The concern for my welfare was genuine and it made the inconvenience of going back and forth and dealing with this go away. It's the old adage of "Do good and you do good."

Staying On Message Works

Now that Arnold is our new governor, the power of staying on message in spite of challenges and detractions is evident. Regardless of what people feel about him, he stayed on message---albeit a weak and polished one that said little about policy that matters---and won.

Lesson for today is, do you stay on message about what your business is about or do you waffle?

Sunday, October 05, 2003

No Student Left Unsold

A coincidental email I received today is worthy of sharing with you since yesterday's blog was about the marketing at jr.'s schools. I have been a member of BadAds for several years and trust this source implicitly and encourage you to get on their mailing list. It will open your eyes. Linda and Eric have been in the forefront of "enough is enough" for several years. Great work!

Dear BadAds Member

In June 2003, we told you that the National PTA -- which dubs itself "the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the United States" -- had added Coca-Cola to its list of "Proud Sponsors," a group that already included Microsoft, Disney, and the NFL as members.

Apparently that deal didn't bring the two organizations as close as they'd like to be. Since then, John H. Downs Jr., Coca-Cola Enterprise's senior vice president for public affairs and its chief lobbyist, has been placed on the PTA's board of directors. In an article in The New York Times (, the PTA says that Downs' experience will help the organization with its marketing efforts, but that's small comfort to parents who send their children off to commercial-laden schools every day.

Oh, wait, maybe those schools aren't nearly as commercial-laden as they seem, according to a health and nutrition spokesperson for Coke quoted in the Times article. Says Kari L. Bjorhus, "We do not believe that having
vending machines in schools represents a commercial presence in the classroom because the machines aren't in the classroom." Guess we can't argue with that.

Adds Pamela J. Grotz, executive director of the National PTA, "Coca-Cola is sponsoring National PTA's program; PTA is not sponsoring Coca-Cola or promoting Coke. We have a very strong policy on commercialism in schools, and we haven't changed."

If you feel that asking the fox to help guard the henhouse goes against the spirit of the National PTA's "very strong policy on commercialism in schools," we urge you to write and say so.

Linda Hodge, President
National PTA
Phone: 800-307-4782, x 312
Fax: 312-670-6783
E-mail: or


Eric & Linda

P.S. Those interested in learning the full extent of commercialism in schools are advised to read "No Student Left Unsold," the sixth annual report on schoolhouse commercialism trends ( Compiled by Alex Molnar, Professor of Education Policy at Arizon State Unversity, the report
covers a frightening number of instances of naming rights for sale, sponsored education materials, and corporate incentive programs. Do you know which of these activities are going on at a school near you?

Saturday, October 04, 2003

From the Marketers to Your Children

As a father and marketer I worry about the constant marketing to children...all you have to do is look at tv and the images and "needs" that they create in children's minds. And do you really think your kids want you to go to McDonald's et al. because of the food or the marketing tie-ins with whatever popular kid movie is now playing? A toy made in China is the ultimate prize that captures a kid's imagination and give me gene with a straight line to parents' wallets. jr. is an astute observer of the world for a six-year old. I've taught him to look at advertising critically and to question anything that looks too good to be true. His refrain is always, "It looks like it works great on tv until you get it home." Now that's the beginning of a very savvy consumer! All to bring home a point about the invasive presence of marketing in our local school system. Seems like each week, jr. brings home all sorts of clever marketing pieces in his school packet, all sanctioned by the our school district. From Scholastic Books book fairs and catalogues (that I don't have a real problem with since reading is critical to success but there is implied pressure to buy to help the school since they get a cut) to having the school lunch menu colorfully designed and printed on a Nickelodeon template (given free to the school, thus saving costs), touting the shows with our beloved Sponge Bob Squarepants as the headliner.

This week comes another catalogue from Land's End, a slick 36 page tome with all manners of "Classic, comfortable dress code clothes for kids, teens, staffers too!" And you can also pay extra to include your school logo on selected items, as if kids didn't have enough logo items in their closets and toy chests. I know our schools are hurting financially, especially during these deficit-ridden times, but letting marketers onto the school grounds where peer pressure is hard at work turning your kids from the nice sweet things you've nurtured to raging consumers should be off limits. While the Land's End catalogue is tastefully done and I like their products, it's intrusive and reflects a growing trend that parents should be concerned about.

The lesson here is that somewhere in the core of a marketer's soul must come the ethical construct about what business we are about. Our reason for being is to create awareness and instill buy decisions, but how far should we go and is anything off limits? Only strong resolution and dialogue from consumers (parents) can make the true difference.

Enough on this subject. I have to take jr. to his soccer game, wearing his logo swatched uniform from our team sponsor to blend in with the other kids in similar attire, creating a sea of bobbing marketing billboard-children just trying to see if they can kick the ball in the right direction.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

High Flying Customer Service Stories

Everyone knows about Southwest Airlines, you know, the one that keeps on making money while the others are going belly up? I've flown Southwest often and have always found them on time, full of humor, inexpensive and available. My soon-to- be 21 year old son, flies them often on his way home from his college perch 500 miles north so that he's on their frequent flyer program. Yesterday, he received a birthday card that you can make into a party hat. Now that's database marketing that only your insurance agent would love. Birthday cards are simple matters and I doubt if my son cares one way or the other that Southwest is thinking of him on his emancipation to adulthood. But it says something about keeping in touch with the customer and it's so in keeping with Southwest's culture. Kudos to them.

Yesterday my car also went flying. I bought a new 2004 Maxima about three months ago and I am one of those who does not go to the dealer for servicing as the prices and what they allegedly do for you is mostly stuff you can check yourself, like hoses, fluid levels, for which they charge a premium price. So when Mrs., who is in ad sales for our regional paper, told me about a new client she had, a small mechanic shop that also does oil changes, I went. Nice people, sincere, good communications skills and all certified mechanics. The shop is brand spanking new. So new that the lift they put my precious new ticket machine on worked well to get the car in the air...but, alas, they couldn't bring it down; the lift wouldn't come down so what was supposed to be a 20 minute oil change became nearly a six hour process of trying to get the lift company to come out and repair it, etc. When they finally came, they couldn't fix it with my car on the lift so they called a tow truck with a bed that rises and were able to transfer my car and bring it gently down to earth.

During this entire process, I ended going back to world headquarters to work. Throughout the afternoon, I'd get progress reports and offers for me to rent a car at their expense if I needed to. I share this story because I am going back to them for my oil changes and maintenance, all because I appreciated the care with which they handled the problem and the genuineness of all involved. It was, indeed, beyond their control, but they took full responsiblity up front and were willing to do whatever needed to get done to rectify it. Oh, yes, I did get the oil change free.

The lessons here are that staying in close communicative contact in a manner that reflects the brand culture---Southwest---and head on during a dicey customer service issue---my oil change---is ultimately what true marketing is about. If you think that marketing is all about ads, think again. It's how your organization behaves in all situations, whether proactive or reactive, that makes the true marketing difference.

PR Control

Interesting story in today's LA Times regarding women who have come forward to accuse our probably, soon-to-be governor Ahnold of groping them or subjecting them to unwanted sexual advances. Ahnold got in the front of the media and said, yep, they're probably right, I was inappropriate and I can we move on? From a PR point of view, he's being well advised to not sand bag this one, like he's doing with the issues, and to try to move it from the front pages to the obituaries. He might be successful and all he really needs is five more days of grace.

The lesson here, as most PR practitioners will agree, is that it's usually better to admit wrong doing, apologize, say it won't happen again and move on. The more you withhold that mea culpa, the further you advance the story to your detriment.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Downstream Impact

Two cases of downstream impact caught my eye this morning:

1. A side bar in the September 29th Forbes regarding, not the guy you work for, the kind you eat. According to the Snack Food Association, meat snack sales rose 4.5% last year to $2.1 billion. The reason? Popularity of the high-protein Atkins Diet and people on the run with no time to cook. Besides beef jerky, there's turkey, alligator and emu...think about that when you watch the Animal Channel.

The lesson here is that for every action there's a reaction, especially when it comes to marketing. The fallout from something the snack food industry did not instigate helped it along very profitably. Thank you Doctor Atkins!

2. According to a front page article in the LA Times, piracy has taken its toll on the Academy Awards as the Oscar contenders will not be able to send out those freebies to the 32,000 Academy members, the so-called "screeners" DVDs and video cassettes that are part of the marketing frenzy that advances the potential for an award. Because of piracy the Motion Picture Association of America has banned them, at least for the major studios that are members. The MPAA is taking a stand that is apparently unpopular, but understandable. The outcry is that many of the Academy members don't necessarily live near Tinsel Town, such as Michael Moore, who lives in Switzerland and feels it will impact his ability to see potential winners and thus his vote, but feels it will do little to alter the piracy trend. He states that the piracy really starts on the cutting room floor.

The lesson here is that downstream impacts are sometimes more cosmetic than reality. But in a PR sense, the Academy has been able to be on the front page and the frontlines against piracy and has earned a ton of free press.