Friday, November 28, 2003

In The Midst of Change Comes A Message

I have been consulting for a couple of years besides teaching and trying to keep up with Mrs.'s "honey do" list. I use the word consulting because as a one-man company, albeit an incorporated one, that's what I do. My product is what is in between my ears and the network I've developed. Ask me if I can do something related to marketing and strategy and I've got the bases covered.

I have been in the midst of change as I hone ever more sharply my focus as to what I do and who I am. The past couple of months I've been more introspective, becoming more unhappy with most of the clients I have. So have been reading quite a bit, contemplating quite a bit and writing every day, letting the muse capture what I feel...all to relate something that happened last week that is both a message and portends well. At my little library---it's actually an old Wells Fargo branch building---in my little corner of California paradise, I came across a book that spoke so strongly to me that I want to share with you. It's by Harriet Rubin: Soloing: Realizing Your Life's Ambition.

I know, I know, there are a lot of life revealing books out there even though Dr. Phil thinks he's cornered the market. But this book addresses the difference between consulting and soloing...the essence is that too often consulting is about doing something you know how to do well and it may be simply a matter of survival that you do that; while soloing is about doing what truly is inside you and acknowledging your identity as a person and a professional. If you're a consultant, or simply thinking about it, or in need to make changes in your life that define your essence, then read this book.

All for now. More on marketing tomorrow.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thanksgiving Overview

Marketing never ends even on a day we should be giving thanks for all the blessings we have. This morning's LA Times is laden with slick, gossy ads for the shopping orgy that will unfurl before us tomorrow. The ads on tv are all about creating anticipation about the bargains and must have toys and items that await us in the stores. Even Staples has fallen prey to the Starbucks phenomenon in a promotion with HP....if you buy any HP ink combo you get a bag of coffee "instantly." How's that for instant gratification!

What's even more interesting is that Toys R Us has partnered with Albertsons grocery store and Safeway has partnered with K-B Toys to sell selected toys you can pick up on Aisle 7 along with the pickles. 7-Eleven has increasingly added consumer items such digital cameras and other toys so you can Christmas shop as you pick up a gallon of milk: "Oh, Thank Heavens for 7-Eleven!" And Sears and others are now allowings us to go online to buy toys today and pick them up tomorrow so that you don't have to wait in line for the bargains.

All to say that marketing is always lurking around to seduce customers with the shopping fever. Is that all bad? Yes and no. We are so over-marketed now that there is no free air space or free time when we're not being pitched. We all need a breather.

The lesson here is that marketing never stops and with the Internet and our instant society it reaches us even as we celebrate our blessings. Innovation is what marketing is all about, and with some of these tactics innovative ways to make shopping more convenient is where the differentiation lies. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


With the medicare battle being waged on all front, especially the prescription issue, it's interesting to note how the AARP has been so instrumental in the recent passing of the bill in Congress. The article in the recent issue of Newsweek details this event and the transformation of AARP from being a behind the scenes lobbyist for issues concerning seniors to being in the forefront of this new bill. William Novelli, the CEO of AARP, is a marketer and the way he runs AARP is in a marketing driven way.

Novelli, the founder of the respected marketing & PR firm Porter Novelli, has buffed up the organization in several ways. He's increased the number of state offices from 23 to 53. He's removed the word "retired" from the name...its now simply AARP in an effort to make the acronym the brand (sound reasoning to me since that's what people have called it for many years now.) He understands that the organization has to pass the baton to the next generation fast coming on the landscape, us Boomers. That's why he's pushing to make AARP more attractive to us with everything from changing the format of the magazines to taking a stronger stand on sometimes not too popular political issues.

One final note on this with a great quote in the article from Hugh Delehanty, editor in chief of AARP Publications: "When I first came here marketing was a dirty word." Now it isn't with Novelli in charge.

The lesson here is that for an organization to have an impact on the future of the constituents it represents it must speak for them. And in order to survive it must change with the times. That means understanding the customers and what their needs, goals and aspirations are. Then you bring a marketing mindset to the process and make it happen. That's marketing driven thinking. Hey, I may now join!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

What's In A Name?

One of our local regional airports, about 50 miles away from world headquarters is in Ontario, California. The airport is part of the LA International Airport system, a step cousin really although Ontario Airport has spend beaucoup dollars in the past several years to upgrade the facility...I must admit it does look and feel like a world-class place. But it hasn't quite met expectations of volume, while LAX is overwhelmed with passengers. So a new marketing campaign is coming with a new name: Los Angeles-Ontario International Airport. The idea is to make the place an adjunct to LAX much like London-Heathrow. Ontario is about 50 miles from LAX, but with the traffic it could be a couple of hours to get there so it makes sense to push Ontario....and the name change shows that no matter what you do, it's same old wine in a brand new bottle.

Another aviation name is coming out of the chutes and the name is Ted, a strategy of United Airlines to capture more of us low-fare travelers. The new airline is based out of Denver. Sean Donohue, vice president for Ted, described Ted at the coming out news conference as "warm, friendly and casual." Mr Donohue added, "If this airplane could wink, it would." Please, spare us the spin.

Whether Ted flies is another thing especially with United on the ropes financially---United will most likely ask for another gazillion dollars in Federal bailout while it still goes through another restructuring effort. Here's more from Mr. Donohue to inspire the flying public: "This is an airline for the people, by the people. We want to make Ted almost like a new friend, someone you'd like to get to know." Gag. Does Mr. Donohue not have a PR person scripting him. This is not inspiring stuff he's spouting.

Lesson here is that sometimes a name change makes sense, like Los Angeles-Ontario International Airport, where the lead name co-brands the secondary one. But with Ted, well, it may be a great low-fare option but it's obvious that not much thought was put into how to position it in the marketplace. I'm not sure I want an airline to be "almost like a new friend," I just want them to be safe, on time and cost effective. Think about this as you position your organization in the marketplace. Is it just spin or does it really define the brand?

A Requiem for the Mouse?

Talk about invasive and persistent marketing that has seeped into the global culture, then Disney's Mickey Mouse is certainly the one to win the award. But after 75 years, the Mouse and Disney's star is beginning to wane with the advance of video games, the Internet, new characters and a couple of generations removed from the Disney strangle hold. Even Pooh is beating out the Mouse as the icon du jour. Interesting article in the New York Times this morning.

Lesson here is that brands need to stay current. Disney is working hard to do so with some retro offerings, but maybe we're all a bit tired of Mickey and his friends. No matter how much money you throw at a brand strategy, if it doesn't fit you must acquit.

The Value of Blogs

Good article I picked up this morning through a blog I follow every day PR Opinion---which I highly recommend you follow as well---regarding an article in PC Magazine by columnist John Dvorak regarding the longevity of blogs. Let me pipe in right now that this is purely elitist pap regarding blogs. I find that blogging is a very valuable tool to keep me informed as well as making me write. My blog is a great task master. Read the article and pipe in with a comment to John or to Tom Murphy, the host of PR Opinion.

Bunny Bites Man

When Hugh Hefner began to advertise for Carl's Jr., a hamburger chain mostly in Southern California, it seemed just another use of a sex symbol to sell yet another burger. In one 30-second spot, Hef---in his trademark pajamas---is surrounded by three young women and talks about his love of variety. Here's the copy:

"People always ask me, 'Hey, Hef, do you have favorites? I tell them, no. It's not about that. I love them all. It just depends what I'm in the mood for." Hef then proceeds to eat a burger with the voice over commenting: Some guys don't like the same thing night after night." Well, we can just guess what the appeal is, but here's the fallout where the bunny bit the man, the man being the CEO of Carl's Jr., Andrew Puzdier, who was asked to resign from the board of Thomas Aquinas College, a very strict Catholic school, in Ventura County, California.

Lesson here is that the message sometimes has unwanted consequences. We all know that sex sells, but is there a point where you say enough? I think so. As marketers we need to be sure that our messages are the kinds we wouldn't mind our kids seeing.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Internet and American Life Project

I strongly recommend you read the report released today from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, titled Consumption of Information Goods and Services in the United States. Very insightful information for anyone involved with marketing and the Internet. And who isn't?

Friday, November 21, 2003

Great Quote

From an Internet Gem and a Find: . Go there:

"A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task is the hope of the world."

-From a church in England

circa 1730

Buy Nothing Day

It's November 28th, the day after Thanksgiving, and organized and supported by's a good thing to do and I endorse it, only if to make people think before they buy. Do they really need this, and do they understand where it comes from, etc. It's an anti overconsumption statement...just look around you. Here's what the email I recieved said. Judge for yourself

" Jammers,

Millions of things are on the go in the Buy Nothing Day network, but
these news items were too hot to pass up.

One: the attack on the Big Mac has garnered an awesome response. Not
one, but two 15-second anti-McDonalds spots - on the 24th and 25th of
November - are hitting CNN's Inside Politics. We're aiming for a third
ad, so help spread the word and lend to the cause. insider at CNN says there's an email about these spots
circulating. Apparently we've stirred up the hive and the workers are

Two: Buy Nothing Day has gone scientific. Statistics show you're not
alone wanting to shun consumerism the day after Thanksgiving - more
than 60 percent of Americans do, too. Check out our BND homepage and
click the link to the BND SURVEY. Jamming.

Tim Walker
Campaigns Manager
Adbusters Media Foundation
Want to join the Culture Jammers Network?

To unsubscribe from the list, simply send an email to with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject."

Come On Home, Hedy Lamarr

Hedy was a talented movie actress of the 40s and also something of a technological wiz. In 1942 she worked with composer George Antheil and his player pianos and developed, and patented, a method by which frequencies could be changed randomly and therefore codified to create a secure signal. So how does this bit of knowledge have a marketing slant? The reason I know this is because this was highlighted in an ad in the LA Times Tuesday for Boeing to call attention to their job openings.

Apparently, Hedy's concept is still used today and Boeing has juxtapositioned her accomplishments as the spirit of innovation they also have so please join them. Hedy made history so Boeing is imploring those defense types to come around: "Don't let history happen without you. Indeed.

Lesson here is that sometimes to get your message across and attract attention, you have to link seemingly obscure concepts to context. This is called creativity. Are you creative with your thinking?

Great Quote on Strategy

Anyone following this blog knows that I often discuss strategic planning/thinking, or mind preparation as we've agreed to call it. Found this quote in my inbox yesterday from and it's right on the mark: "Strategies are okayed in boardrooms that even a child would say are bound to fail. The problem is, there's never a child in the boardrooms.". This from Victor Palmieri, a business takeover financier who has seen many business failures to his ever grateful benefit. Enough said.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Making a Brand Irrelevant

Remember Twinkies? That brand used to dominate all the lunch boxes in the known world when I was a kid. Now, however, it's being totally beaten up by Krispy Kreme and other confectionary attractions. And another American classic, Wonder Bread, is also being laid low by competition and the fact that people are on Atkins and those mean old carbos don't cut it anymore.

All to say that sometimes a brand---even one 70 years old---can fade away like old soldiers and perhaps there's nothing that can be done. It's just time for them to go. So the lesson here is that time takes its toll on everyone and everything no matter what you do or how much botox you put into your product and your marketing.


Great quote in this week's Newsweek Perspective section, one that keys on the sexual sell we are all subjected to. Apparently, Murray, Utah resident Tristyn Underwood was asked to stop nursing her baby at the local Burger King. So she and 15 other nursing mothers staged a "nurse-in" at the place. Love this quote: People need to realize breasts are for more than selling beer." Amen.

Volvo...For Stamps?

Interesting direct mail piece arrived at world headquarters yesterday from Volvo....Thick stock with a picture of the new Volvo S60R on one side and the other side is a sheet of 25 stamps of the same car. It's made to look like something you'd get at the Post Office with a subtle message on the side: Guaranteed Express Delivery.

Lesson here is that "out of the box" thinking sometimes takes a subtle route. Think about Absolut vodka and their branding strategy. What kind of innovative thinking have you done to advance your brand? I have a friend who takes home baked cookies to conferences and to her clients. Maybe not original but she's known as the cookie lady in her field, and it's made an impression and business.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Wal-Mart...Nemesis or Hero?

Talking about Wal-Mart can bring on many visceral reactions. In the latest issue of Fast Company, the take on this behemoth is not necessarily a pretty one. And the news lately has been less than stellar with La Migra busting hundreds of undocumented workers---mostly taking the lower paying and less savory jobs---and there have been issues of sex-discrimination so the list goes on.

All to alert you to an interesting article in today's LA Times Business section about Wal-Mart naming a "Chief of Office Diversity"'s that for Orwellian speak?

When (or if) the Boomers Say Bye-Bye

Interesting article in CIO magazine in the Reality Bytes section about us boomers shuffling off the employment playing field within the next 5-10 years, and the impact vis a vis younger workers now stuck in static jobs. Interesting concept that what will happen will not simply be a labor shortage, but a knowledge shortage once us old reprobates go away...and what companies need to do is figure out how to retain that knowledge.

"This Revolution is Unstoppable."

Full page ad in the calendar section of the LA Times from Kazaa, in the form of a memo to the record and movie executives regarding their joining the online revolution, with a cc to "60 million fans." The appeal is that Kazaa members are not pirates and want to pay a fair price for music....only if the movie and record industry would go along. The ad proclaims that, "You are missing the opportunity to capture an enormous market. The world of entertainment is changing." I agree.

So full circle on the marketing and PR implications is that Kazaa is positioning itself as a a leader in this new world and like Rodney King, "Can't we all get along?" Although music and movie downloaders have gone more underground and we're not hearing much more on the RIAA's lawsuits against 12 year olds and grandmothers, it appears that the trend is for a compromise. And my informal survey of kids shows that they're not necesarily stopping the downloads, just being more circumspect about sharing and how many they grab. But didn't I read not long ago that Microsoft is now involved with Kazaa? Is this another Bill Gates backdoor tactic? Stay tuned. And see for yourself what Kazaa is saying.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Access Fees For Doctors?

As a marketer with a heavy healthcare practice, I understand the financial issues that physicians are facing...Many of my physician friends and clients are working longer hours and making less, while losing a quality life we all want for ourselves. An interesting article in The New York Times online this morning regarding some physicians charging access fees to their patients on top of what they pay for health coverage. Controversial to say the least, but it shows you how tough times are and how some physicians are trying to solve them.

Judge for yourself. I see both sides of this one. Another indication of the healthcare Chernobyl we are attempting to seal up in its own sarcophagus...but the half life will outstrip everything we try to do to sweep it away. Let me know your thoughts at

Cliche Works

Digging through research for my book I discovered an ad by Hyatt in the October 30, 2002 issue of The Wall Street Journal that uses an overworked cliche to create an excellent positioning message for attracting more conferences and corporate meetings. The message that struck me was how benefit focused it was and how close it was a genuine "truth" about such gatherings: If you want your people to think out of the box, change the box they meet in.

Think about the last meeting you went to off-site and how the setting, amenities and service affected the value. Attention to detail for meetings is part of the hard work of presenting. While not all of us can afford to go to a Hyatt with Polynesian dancers and walk on hot coals to build our self-confidence, using a little imagination and creativity can make a dull place full of life...and set the stage for a more successful learning experience.

Sex Always Sells Paris

Wherever there's risque behavior, there's a marketer, so it seems. This morning's LA Times Calendar section has an article on the Hilton sisters, mainly Paris along with her sister Nicky, of the Hilton chain fortune, who have taken on bad girl reps to the delight of many who love to see the rich come down to a more common level.

At 22, Paris is apparently the hottie du jour who loves to pose for the papparazi and work her rep to the max. So where do the marketers come in? In two ways. First, Paris herself is a marketer by using her beauty and money to be in the right places at the right time in order to garner the media coverage she craves thus perpetuating her "brand".

And second, a video of Paris having sex with her boyfriend in a Las Vegas hotel room three years ago has surfaced for sale on the Internet. Ebay is also having a hot sale on t-shirts that proclaim, "I've Seen Paris." Her parents are outraged, of course, and threatening anyone who had anything to do with the video with severe damages. And the former boyfriend is claiming that the Hilton family is waging a "malicious campaign" against him in efforts to portray him as a "rapist" it goes. Let's get real here, folks. Don't you think that with Paris' MO she's probably enjoying the boost to her crediblity this continuing saga is doing? All denials on her part can only fuel the issue.

It used to be said that all publicity was good regardless of whether it was business that is most certainly not the case although in our increasingly jaded world it may not be so far off the mark anymore. Think about Keating and the Savings and Loan fiasco, the bubble, and there's still Richard Nixon always on the cusp of rehabilitation. Redemption seems to come faster and faster these days and seemingly without a long waiting period in limbo as payment for the some cases bad publicity can also lead to being elected governor as in our golden state. Nothing unethical or immoral seems to matter as much as long as it's entertaining for a nano-second before we move on to the next titillating news bite about someone else biting the dust only to rise again like the Phoenix.

As for me, yes, I've seen Paris...I lived there as a child and renew my connection occasionally after a very long and tiring flight. Thankfully, I don't need to see the video.

Monday, November 17, 2003

1. Strike Marketing...Even the unions are getting in on the marketing game in the LA area as the LA Times reported in Friday's edition. Entering the sixth week of a seemingly never-to-end grocery strike, the unions will now use direct mail, recorded messages from union leaders and precinct walkers to get the word out and garner support. The mailings went out to 146,000 households last week, targeting women age 30 to 45, since they comprise the majority of shoppers, urging them not to shop at Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons.

The union has already made over 500,000 phone calls using automated dialing machines (I guess the Do-Not-Call list doesn't apply here?) and they are also sending out postcards for people to mail in to our new Governor, asking Arnold to intervene in the dispute. A quote from Susie Gilligan, director of the Feminist Majority in LA, a group allied with the strikers, indicates the strategy well---and the hopes riding on this campaign: "I think women understand the challenges other women face, whether it's in a grocery store around the corner or a sweatshop around the world." Maybe, but you wouldn't know it from our piece of paradise in the slurbs as they're are still as many SUVs parked in the grocery store parking lots as ever...and it's wearing people out and they're crossing the picket lines.

That aside, marketing strategies are evolving into all aspect of our daily lives, even strikes. Apparently, it is hurting the grocery chains significantly, especially at the stores where pickets set up their protests.

Lesson here is that even unions understand the value of knowing your target audience and using the right marketing tactics to reach that audience. Marketing doesn't have to be sophisticated in order to work, it just has to be right on in terms of planning, focus and execution...that, plus the will to stick it out. Is your marketing as targeted as the strikers?

2. When White Space Says A Lot...noticed in the last couple of magazines a 4 page insert of heavy stock paper, totally white except for an embossed messages---all in white--- on the two inside pages that state: "It's the things you don't notice at first that set us apart (page 2)...US Trust, Quietly building wealth for individuals and families since 1853 (page 3.") And at the very bottom, also embossed, a small "Contact Jim Bailey at 1800 US Trust."

I think this is a very clever and well positioned ad with a key message that sums up their intent and their purpose. A clear and resounding message (like the White Album of the Beatles? Forgive an old hippie) packaged in a unique way. And for a bank at that, not with all the usual we want to build a relationship with you, but honest thought about the purpose of why people use banks: to make money.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Tongue In Cheek....and social statement go hand in hand as I skim through a catalogue I received yesterday from Despair, Inc. They're claiming a niche as the anti-hero in the "aren't we all sick of these insipid posters and sentiments that companies put up as window dressing for motivation." I cracked up as I read through these clever mimics...the tenor of the catalogue and their website is a wonderful statement for companies to "Get Real" as Dr. Phil would say. It's the Dilbert approach of getting a message to the world that insipid sentiments on a wall don't cut it when a real commitment to making substantial change should be the norm and not the rarity. I can think of Mrs.'s company for one.

Here's a taste of what Despair is sharing with the world. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Scanner Heaven or Hell?....recently went to Home Depot to buy one small item and the line was a mile long so I was directed by a friendly "associate" to the self scanner section. It was supposed to help me move out faster, but somehow the Gods were not smiling on me that day as the item was priced wrong on the master computer and the machine wouldn't take my money. Another friendly "associate" whose job it is to make sure that everything is smooth helped out, but by then there was a line behind me just a grumbly as the one I had left. Don't you just hate that?

This morning's LA Times has an article about these self-scanners and how the grocers are now getting in the game and the ones grumbling about it are the unions, which rightfully see these scanners as a threat to jobs. These new systems are not for people with lots of groceries, but overall they're getting a fairly good response from consumers (albeit my experience was not the norm, so I'm made to understand) and the industry is expected to generate over a $1 billion by 2005.

According to the article, the grocery chains that are testing these out "contend that they're not trying to replace workers with machines but are aiming to improve customer service by moving clerks to bakery, deli, floral and meat counters where they can develop relationships with customers and have more influence on spending." The point here is that in the low margin world of groceries, any measure that saves labor cost and automates a way of handling customers more efficiently makes sense.

But let's talk about the growing distance between people buying services and products and the humans who provide them. From telephone tree hell, to buying online, to ATMS and now self-scanners, we are fast moving from key human touch points in our everyday lives to pod-like experiences that further remove us from each other. While there have been some wonderful efficiencies and greater access (I think of the ATM down the street where I've had a long standing "relationship"), is that the customer and human experience you want?

Friday, November 14, 2003


I have joined the Ryze community, a business networking site at I read about it in the latest issue of Inc. I'll keep you posted on how this works and what the results are. Have a great weekend.

And Your Point?

Feature or Benefit? That's what usually distinguishes mediocre, ineffective and wasteful marketing from the successful efforts. And your point, as my 21 year old always says to me when he's giving me that Duh Look, is that good marketing ultimately resides in the executive suite and not just with the marketing department.

To illustrate, would you allow someone else to go and chose your new home, the color, the location, the features, the schools nearby, etc.? Obviously not because then their taste and biases, etc. are what would drive the buy. Why do it with your marketing? The CEO and the other executives should be the high shamans of the brand, not to micro-manage the process, but to make sure that the marketing and communications reflects their vision and the business needs and goals. Does it happen enough? No.

My point is that too often when senior management is not involved in overseeing the marketing or delegating it to someone who is not the right person, what you get will be a feature message vs. benefit. The message will most likely be, "Look at us, aren't we the cat's meow. Here are all the wonderful things we do," while it should be "Here's how we can help you solve your problem, meet your goals,and provide a value-rich relationship." Benefit to a client is what it's all can tout what you do later when you get the client to listen you and hire you, or buy your product.

Lesson here is that the roadblock to a successful brand often lies in the executive suite. Marketing is too important to be left unattended and to middle managers. Even with a higher level person overseeing it, the CEO should be the final brand master. After all it represents him as much as the company. He/she should be concerned and engaged so that there is consensus throughout the organization as to how marketing and all the components that make the business what it is work and contribute. Are you making that point in your organization?

Strategy and Uncertainty

From my archives, a quote from Alvin Toffler---probably the one who made futurists a part of our lives---on strategy. This from an article in Health and Health Networks from 1999:

There's a current thinking today which says that because things are changing so rapidly, it's impossible to have a strategy. All you need to be is agile and react to immediate change. That is wrong. It allows someone else to determine the constraints under which you'll operate. Organizations with a strategy will set the terms of competition."

Especially true today as the world works at a much faster pace thanks to technology and higher expectations of immediacy from nearly everyone on the planet.

Taking Responsibility

An interesting article in the November 11th Wall Street Journal regarding marketing and fat kids. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a vocal critic of marketing junk food to kids, stating that US businesses spent $15 billion to market to kids 12 and under with more than half of that "bulk" going to food items they claim was full of fats and sweets. It all deals with the "nag factor", you know the one where your kids drive you crazy until you give in.

According to Nancy Daigler, as spokeswoman for Kraft Food, "We think marketing to younger audiences can be appropriate if it's done responsibly." According to the article, Kraft had "recently launched a global antiobesity effort, which includes shrinking portion sizes and improving nutritional content of some Kraft products."

Krispy Kreme is also identified as a culprit with their academic program of rewarding students for each A with a donut. And then there's the new KFC advertising campaign trying to convince us that a bucket of chicken is good for you.

So is it a marketing issue and is marketing responsible? Yes and no. Obviously we marketers are good at our craft of making something look attractive so it will bought. We've got the tools and research and experience to shape a message that resonates with a buyer's "hot button." That said, isn't it also a matter of responsibility on the parents' side of simply saying no? As a father I know how difficult that can be, but in these modern times not taking responsibility for our actions is an extreme sport and everyone does it. Let's get's your kid so act in his/her best interest even if you are a "meany".

Our schools are culpable as well since they take the money for product placements in order to better balance their books since government funding is at its lowest ebb. But we parents are letting the schools do that. I think of all the stuff that jr. brings home with the marketing from the food companies (Kraft being one) and other tie-ins.

Lesson here is that marketing should be responsive to societal values...but keep in mind that marketing is also about growing and retaining business. Ultimately, what we pride ourselves about in this country is free choice for each person to make a decision on whether they will buy something or not. And it's the marketers' choice to make that happen. Somewhere in there is a moral responsibility and to blame marketing for it all is not realistic and passing the buck.

Thursday, November 13, 2003


Digging through a pile of articles I saved for this blog and this comes from the LA Times of July 7, 03 about Dickies, the blue-collar clothes that your local plumber et al. wears. Apparently, the young and cool, are into the gear as a fashion statement. I guess when I remember my Hippie days and long hair, granny glasses, etc. it's all part of a rite of passage.

The remarkable thing is that this is a boon for the company as it has increased its sale to young people in triple digits for the past three years. Now they are coming out with a Dickies Girl line. The interesting thing is that the company is not asking this new market about what they want or how they feel, they're still consulting with the plumbers, builders, mechanics, and electricians to make sure the product is right for them. This surge in a new market is what is called "brand hijacking" a clever name that sounds more ominous than it really is.

So I guess it's now safe for me to get out my old bib overalls, just like I used to wear on the farm in Iowa and get with the groove. How long the "cool" of Dickies will last is anyone's guess, and that's why the company is sticking with its core business and satisfying the market that's always been there

Lesson here is that if you make a good enough product, or provide a quality service long enough the cycles of the marketplace will swing your way, even if it's from a totally unexpected source. The key is to be true to what you originally started out with and keep the standards which guide you. Once you start being too "cool", well, it could spell your doom. What are you doing to keep the essence of what you do? As a marketer you are the arbiter between the marketplace and the sometime foolish desires to be all things to all people. Stick with what you know.

Taking Heart From Peter Drucker

Mind preparation has dogged me all day as I work on several projects. As I researched today, I stumbled onto Peter Drucker's website and found an article entitled The First Action Required of Leadership, in which Drucker says you have to ask five questions:

What Is Our Mission?
Who Is Our Customer?
What Does The Customer Value?
What Are Our Results?
What Is Our Plan?

Of course I took great solace in seeing the last one...This stuff seems fairly basic and that's why it needs to be asked over and over and over. Because it's such a Duh Factor, it's one of the last things people want to consider. Enjoy. I recommend going to Drucker's site.

RSS Test

After much struggling, this neophyte and his patient friend, John, are trying to make sure this weblog has RSS feed so that many interested people can get the news from here while it's still hot and fresh. Lets try this!

Planning...R & R For Your Brain

The fast pace in today's marketplace doesn't give up time for thinking about the business willingly. It's always a struggle to justify taking time off to "talk about key issues" when there is so much to be done and not enough hours in the day. That's the very reason to take that much needed Rest & Recuperation---albeit a brief interlude---to just think. That's what that nasty word "planning", or our new term mind preparation, is about. I'm not talking about analysis paralysis here, but that refreshing pause to get the bearings, look at the map, adjust the tack into the wind, add more passengers onto the bus to balance the load and move on.

Let me give you an example of a company that did just that and is now moving forward on its recovery. It's the trucking firm Roadway, fighting hard in an unionized industry that is fast losing ground to non-unionized carriers who can be more flexible with a lower-cost workforce. Roadway's CEO, James Staley, decided that the only way to get people on board to meet the competitive challenge was to actually engage the entire company at every level of the company. Not an easy thing to do with macho Teamster truckers. Here's what he did:

- His staff runs classes explaining finance and how the company is doing...and everyone's role in that bottom line figure
- Classes on productivity include brainstroming and skits on how to be more efficient...a hard thing to do with all that testosterone in the house
- He engaged David Cooperride, a professor at Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, to do a "group therapy-like" approach with the company called Appreciative Inquiry. I know it sounds like more fluff and New Age stuff, but the idea is that we can choose to see possibilities, capabilities and assets -- the basis of appreciative inquiry. It's a shift away from the limitations a company or employees place on themselves regarding their current situation and focusing on the positive and making choices in that manner.

What does this have to do with planning? Everything. Think about a situation when you were in a planning session. Was it simply because things were bad and "we've got to do something fast or our assess are grass", or was it because your company, or division was doing well and you were looking towards the future? Probably the former.

That's why planning---mind preparation---is R & R. It lets you kick back during the good times and bad to stay focused, to tweak what works, question what doesn't, see the possibilities, think critically and creatively and push an action agenda that can actually make a difference in tangible and intangible ways.

As for Roadway, they may not be out of the woods yet, but imagine having Teamsters and management writing a business plan together. Believe it...and that's what planning is about: The engagement of minds to enrich not just the bottom line, but those who contribute to it.

Lesson here is that while planning may seem more like a four letter word in a busy workplace, it's one of the most powerful forces and tools a business can have. As the old adage says, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." What are you doing in your organization to influence a mind preparation process? You may not be the most welcome person at first, but once you get started, you'll be amazed what good you can spark. Be a revolutionary. Go ahead. It's what true marketing is really about!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Planning...The Pause That Refreshes

I've been running against brick walls these days with several prospects when I bring up any form of planning, whether it's about strategy, or marketing, or dice. I am beginning to come up with a theory that in today's fast paced world that " I needed it yesterday" is getting in the way. People are flying by the seat of their pants and multi-tasking so much that they expect their marketing and strategy professionals to simply come in for one meeting and then pull open their carpet bags and voila, here's a solution. Take one of these and here's my bill.

I think the problem is language. Strategic sounds like a lot of hot air with little substance. And couple it with planning, it sounds like as much fun as a root canal. Perhaps then we should just call it mind preparation...think about it. Isn't that what planning is all about, preparing the minds of the company to bring all their experience, assumptions, skills, biases, perspectives, uniqueness, critical thinking and other intangibles towards a common vision in order to make a common enterprise (oops, big word again!)...a common purpose take flight? How else can anyone understand what it takes to make things happen? It's about communications of the highest order...what a business is about and each person's role.

So what does that take? Well, as much as I hate to say it, it takes planning. I know I'm breaking my own rule, but it does take some element of mapping a way to get the minds prepared to stir that gray matter around and see what evolves. That also takes data, another vague word. Information about who, what, how, where and when. It takes a willingness to sit down long enough to let the process flow. It takes recognition that this is a necessary step and valuable to the business. It takes leadership. It's like when Coke used to advertise its value to the customers with the following tagline: The Pause That Refreshes.

Lesson here is that getting people to pause long enough to bring some modicum of thought to the bigger picture so that the many small strokes of paint that make the whole come together is sometimes a difficult thing. We're just too damn busy, often under tight deadlines and unrealistic expectations of what can be accomplished and that's the problem. That's why people don't do it and it infects them with the fear of planning. What are you doing to set the stage to prepare minds in your business? (More Tomorrow)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Veterans Day

I am taking the day off to remember the many wounded I took care of in Vietnam...and the ones that didn't come back.

And here's to my buddies in the 903rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron 1967-68, and those who served before and after. Our unofficial motto was "You call, we haul you all." Peace...Alain

Monday, November 10, 2003

A Company That Gets It!

I had the opportunity to meet with the marketing manager of a local company that is building a national reputation with world-class goals. The company is Turnkey in Temecula, California, and they offer a unique patented process of building schools, etc. that is revolutionizing such construction. But to call them a construction company is a misnomer. What they really offer is a way of thinking and an integrated process that leads to a custom made building. They not only do buildings, they also build solid relationships with their marketplace. They've grown nearly 600% in the last year alone and it comes from leadership and vision.

What really sets this company apart is the ethos and the culture they are forging, which then sets their unique way of doing business in motion to the benefit of their clients. And it's easy to understand why. They get it. The whole work environment bit, the inclusiveness of each person in the company to be a contributor, the respect for the work and the people who do it. Imagine that!

My visit with them was invigorating. From the moment of first contact over the phone, to the greeting at the door, to the meeting with Cindy Fox, the marketing manager, the entire experience was one of possibility and respect. The courtesy and respect for all who come in contact with the company and within the company was also heartening. Even though I was there to pitch business, I was made to feel important as a professional and as a person.

The layout of their offices is free flowing and integrated so that everyone is a part of the whole, yet distinct and unique. The artwork is original and the floor is bamboo, creating a sense of vibrancy and balance that results in creativity and innovation. Many of the walls are simply erase boards where anyone who has an idea on what they're working on can just go up and scribble...and then those ideas are discussed weekly to see what shakes out. (How I wish I'd had those types of walls when my now six year old was practicing his art on our family room walls!) They call their creative process brain mapping and that's why they get it: They understand that the intellectual capital of the company is essentially what ultimately shapes their future and what they are sharing with their clients; it is what makes their company and their products and services successful.

What inspired me the most was their mission statement in the front lobby. I've helped shape many of these mission statements and I can honestly say that this one is one of the most powerful in its simplicity and influence on the culture of the company. And it's reflected in all that they do. It's mantra-like.

Our Mission...Kick Ass
- Become the number one builder on the planet
- Creatively make the impossible happen, consistently

Our Strategy...Have Fun
- Synergize with great people
- Not take ourselves so seriously

Our Actions...Be Responsible
- Exercise principles and integrity
- Balance client aspirations with our capabilities

Lesson here is that too often what businesses say and what they do are miles apart from reality. Everyone drafts mission statements, but few live it and let it guide their potential. If you walked in for a job interview, or to present your credentials as a professional, wouldn't you be excited to see that on the wall and see it in action? You bet. What it also says is that the leadership from the CEO on down are in synch. It takes courage to do things differently and that's what Turnkey is doing. So ask yourself, as a marketer, what are you doing to help bring your company's mission statement to life? Is is real or is it Memorex?

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Creating a Buzz to Break Through the Clutter

In this morning's LA Times a sneak preview DVD from Sony Pictures was inserted to tout upcoming movies during the holidays....all with big stars like Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Julia Roberts, et al. The need to break out from the onslaught of marketing messages is even more imperative in any marketplace. Lately, I've also noticed that movie posters are also inserted in the Sunday paper, usually tied in with some PR effort so that you link the poster to something on the talk shows, or in the entertainment pages.

Lesson here is that marketers have to be even more creative to get through to the customers. The question here is does it really work, or is it simply adding more noise? I must admit the DVD of movie trailers is clever. Think about it in your industry....what do you have to do to get the attention you need to position your product or service? How willing are you to take a chance?


Netscape's home page has a promo to entice us boomers nostalgic for Simon & Garfunkel to win tickets to their sold out concert in New York City. To enter you've got to drill down through several layers, download materials and essentially get a sales pitch every step of the way. Ain't nothing free, even information.

Simon & Garfunkel.bmp

Lesson here is that to get people to come along with you you've got to give them something of value so they stick with it. Simon & Garfunkel understand that. What are you doing with your marketing to give it staying power?

Friday, November 07, 2003

Sometimes the Competition is Perception

I work with a gifted team of website developers and content writers, who can come into a business and hit the ground running to get a website that is focused and successful. There have been occasions when we present to prospects what we can do and what it will cost to do their websites, someone in the crowd will say, "My 15 year old, or my cousin Ned (or whomever else that shakes out of the family tree) could do this and it would cost a fraction of what you guys are asking and do it faster, too!" So goes the competition we sometimes have to overcome. And it can also be a strategy to bring the price down.

Usually, those in the know when we're making our pitch just gloss over such comments and we move on and get the project. But when we have to address it I simply say, "We bring a wealth of professional experience and skills that can put what you want to do in the proper business context and integrate it into your business strategies. There are many intangibles you receive when you use an outside firm of our caliber, and these result in a product that will resonate with insight, purpose and strategy and will give you the value you seek. If your 15 year old can do this, by all means that's a wise business decision and we appreciate the opportunity to present our credentials. If we can help you in the future, please call us." Then we begin to pack up and shake hands all around.

A bit harsh and self defeating? Perhaps, but we've learned that if junior is one of the consultants in the running, it wasn't going to result in business anyway and the client was never going to be happy with it and probably cause us more grief than what we'd be getting paid for. Should we have known that going in? We try to qualify our prospects so we don't waste our time, but these can blind side you. If we do get the work, we make sure that the proud dad is involved and we work hard to develop a learning relationship so we don't get sabotaged.

Lesson here is that your competition is sometimes more stealth like and unexpected than you thought. It may not be the company down the street. Preparing for all contingencies is something a good marketer does regardless if he's an independent consultant, or the in-house guru. When you're pitching business your sales hat comes on and you have to think how the client is thinking. You have to consider the value you're bringing to the game and if it's what the client expects. Your message has to be right on target just like in any marketing situation.

There are times when it's simply not a match and you've got to be prepared to walk away. You have to protect yourself against those clients that suck the air out of a room and strangle your own business and stifle the creativity you bring. Clearly defining who you are and what you want to do and what kind of clients you want to work with is integral to marketing success. It let's you know when to cut and run and leave the playing field to the 15 year olds who do their daddies proud.What do you do to prepare for those moments?

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Reaching a Point of Contention

A bit of literary license here from an article I read this morning in the LA Times, regarding the Voyager I spacecraft launched so long ago in 1977. The headline, Voyager 1 Reaches a Point of Contention makes me wax metaphorically about marketing. A stretch, I know, but bear with me.

The article goes on to state that scientists are at odds over whether the spacecraft has reached the "termination shock", which is at the edge of the universe and where the sun's influence wanes and the solar winds go from supersonic to "a relative whimper." Oh, yeah baby, just like when your marketing hits the termination shock of not doing what it is supposed to do and you are becalmed in the marketplace. The main point the scientists disagree about is where is the edge of the universe and has Voyager 1 hit and moved past it into another realm? Also, like marketing where the marketer does not know the edge of his/her universe and simply keeps on doing the same things over and over and over, all to little possible results.

And I love this quote because when you think of marketing and all the new tools and possible ways to interrupt our potential customers' lives with our messages to tout our products, it seems appropriate. Merav Opher, a space expert at JPL in Pasadena, expresses of the Voyager 1: "It's like we are piercing a hole in the curtain that separates us from the rest of the galaxy." Isn't that what we marketers try to do, pierce the walls that separate our message from the others so that our cause, our services, our products, our intent is finally heard?

Lesson here is that too often the marketing we do should reach a termination shock and a point of contention about it's value, its appropriateness, its ethics, its cost and its effectiveness. Much like the Voyager 1, which has gone on for more than 26 years---although it was designed to last only 5---and traveled over 8 billion miles, some marketing is often old, tired, useless, doesn't transmit any value back to planet business or to the customer. As a marketer, are you a Voyager 1 looking to reach the outer limits and becoming obsolete, or are you focused on fresh innovative ideas and ways to reach people so that they perceive and appreciate the value you bring to them in their daily lives as they reach for another galaxy. Think about it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Good Marketing Is Also About Not Listening To Prevailing Assumptions

Great article in the latest issue of Time, featuring an excerpt from Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner's book, Shameless Exploitation, on how Newman's Own brand of salad dressings and other food items came into being. What struck me is how what you don't know often helps you and what experts think they know can hurt you. Newman and Hotchner talk about going to all these so-called marketing, branding and manufacturing experts and being quoted outrageous sums and all sorts of gobbly gook and meaningless buzz words on what to do. In the end they simply followed their instincts and the rest is history: " From the very beginning, we bucked tradition. When the experts said that something was 'always done' in a certain way, we'd do it our way, which was sometimes the very opposite." That's a lot like life!

Lesson here is that using experts, even someone like me, sometimes can befuddle the situation. That's why I always preface my work with the concept that I believe that the solution lies within an organization, that the creativity is there, it just needs a forum to make itself known...and then that's what I do. After all, the client usually knows the business better than I do and if they've been successful, then something must be working okay. All it may need is an outside point of view to bring it back in balance.

Do you use your outside consultants in a manner that let's you do what you already know? And are your "experts" merely spouting stuff to make themselves look good and important versus really helping you focus on your business core. The best consultant is one that lets you do what you do best with the least amount of interference, but with wise counsel...and then gets out of the way. Think about it.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Sky Pilots, Yet Again

The area where world headquarters calls home is one of the fastest growing in California and indeed the country. That's why churches are proliferating and you can find all kinds here. What's fascinating is that the sky pilots, as we called the chaplains in Vietnam, are using all the marketing tools they can find. From coming to visit us with cookies when mrs. and jr. attended one of the local churces as guests, to a beginning biblical flood of direct mail showing us how much fun we can have.

One particular direct mail piece shows happy people and proclaims the following: "Life church is a 'No-Weirdness' environment. The emphasis is on Relationships, not Religion. The Atmosphere is Casual/The people are Real. The Teaching is Bible Based [now we're getting to real stuff]. The services are about an hour. The Coffee is Hot and the music is Rockin."

One thing you can say is that at least you know where they're coming from so you can say they didn't tell you. If you're looking for that "Old Time Religion", it's not there. It also reflects the changing attitudes about church and religion in the modern age. Church has to have an entertainment value for it to successfully attract a new breed that is so full of television and marketing stimulation that more is needed to connect spiritually. If it helps people, go for it. I'm just making a social marketing comment.

The lesson is that nothing is immune from marketing. To break through the clutter even churches have to adopt a direct mail strategy. And it further advances my marketing driven philosophy that: "Every Act Is A Marketing Act...Everyone Is A Marketer." It also reminds me what one of my students once told me, that the way I talk about marketing it's my religion. Amen, Brothers and Sisters.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Fun Size and Fun Dude jr. asked me this morning as he was sorting out last night haul of Halloween candy why some candy bars were marked fun size. "Aren't they all supposed to be fun? he asked. Good question and a key of how marketers abuse language to create something that simply isn't there. The fun size, I explained, was a little bigger than the usual candy bars and that the marketers were just trying to make it seem like he was getting something really special. Little jr. is a smart one: he said, "That's stupid." End of discussion. Out of the mouths of babes.

Speaking of fun, I see in an article in the October 30th Wall Street Journal that Hugh Hefner, the venerable 77 year old chairman of Playboy, is making a come back as an advertising icon. He's now doing a variety of ads such as for Tanqueray gin and Carl's Jr., a hamburger chain on the Left Coast. The article goes on to tout his marketabilty as a "fun dude." I guess all those Playboy bunnies probably agree. But the real lesson here is that you're not out until you're out, and branding experts will grab at anything that will enhance the value of their product, even recycled publishing innovators.

All for now. Have a great weekend.