Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year!

Be safe. Drive carefully. And remember that marketing never stops. See you in 2004! Alain

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I'll Take a Perm and a Botox Injection, Please

Fascinating article in this morning's LA Times on three medical doctors (Anesthesiologist, OB-GYN and Head, Neck and Facial Plastic Surgeon) who are working in a beauty salon in Tarzana in the San Fernando Valley as part of their practice. They are all certified in the services they offer. They still have a regular practice at their offices, but they saw a need for bringing the cosmetic services to their clients in a setting that actually makes sense. The irony is that they get paid more for doing botox and other minor procedures than doing disease work such as performing an appendectomy, etc. Sad state of the business of healthcare.

Although the money is far better than reimbursement from the health plans, their idea was to provide a better approach and take it to the streets. All agree that the work they do makes a difference in people's lives, from removing unwanted hair to smoothing out acne scars. And the patients love it. The referrals are steady since once a client starts thinking about getting more work done while getting her hair done, all she has to do is walk into the next room and voila the deal is done.

The lesson here is that if the clients don't come to you, go to where they congregate. But even more important it shows how if you are becoming a commodity, you can reinvent yourself and become a brand again. By using the venue of a beauty salon, these three physicians are making a name for themselves and distinguishing themselves from the herd. As a long time healthcare marketer, I can just hear the gasps in the higher medical circles. But, hey, wake up folks, it's all about the customer and medicine is so far behind on this. Kudos to the docs.

Monday, December 29, 2003

The Name Game

Lexus, Armani, Chanel, Infiniti, Loreal, Cartier, Dior, Timberland and Guinesss are all recognizable brand names and distinctions. But an article in The Wall Street Journal on December 26 detailed how these names are what parents are naming their children. And it's thanks to marketing: "We live in an era of the power of the brand name," the article quotes Pamela Redmond Satran, author of a baby naming book. "People are conscious of marketing, where 10 years ago they might not have known what marketing was [when it comes to baby names]."

So it goes...it reminds me of the song by Johnny Cash," A Boy Named Sue" when the protagonist rails against his name. Do you really think in 20 years people will be glad to be called Lexus? At least Verizon or Worldcom are not on the list.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

What It Takes

Catching up on last week's reading and noticed an article in The Wall Street Journal about a scientist who wouldn't give up no matter how derisive the established scientists were about his research on Alzheimer's. Ashley Bush. a researcher at Harvard Medical School has theorized for nearly 10 years that zinc and copper play a role in the disease. However, he was shunned by the major medical research journals and his fellow travelers. All to say that there is a "happy ending" to this story....Dr. Bush is now getting grants and a second look because what he's been saying and the fact that he is coming with novel ideas and research on how to combat the disease.

The lesson here is that persistence pays off. What struck me about the article is that Dr. Bush never wavered in his commitment to pursue his path and his thinking "out of the box." If there is anything tha pays off in all aspects of life, it's persistence...and this is especially true in marketing. Too often in major organizations, the bureaucracy, the territoriality, the lack of understanding the value of marketing and its role in the business, etc. wears the marketer down. This is especially true in health systems where so many experts exert their influence on everything from soup to nuts. Persistence is what we teach our kids when they play sports or when they're working on learning a new skill. Do you practice persistence in your marketing efforts?

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Changing the Face of American Beauty

An article in this morning's The New York Times titled "Generation E.A.: Ethnically Ambiguous" is a must for marketers to read. The premise is that ambiguity is chic when it comes to ethnic identity with the under-25 Generation Y. The gist of the article is reflected in this quote:

"Today what's ethnically neutral, diverse or ambiguous has tremendous appeal," said Ron Berger, the chief executive of Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners in New York, an advertising agency and trend research company whose clients include Polaroid and Yahoo. "Both in the mainstream and at the high end of the marketplace, what is perceived as good, desirable, successful is often a face whose heritage is hard to pin down."

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Not All Is Well In Toyland

As the toy orgy comes to a final conclusion today---and the marketingdriven.com household is no exception---I read an interesting article in this morning's LA Times by Michael Hiltzik in the business section about the toy industry. The impact of WalMart is well known, but what is also coming on strong is the impact of China on the toy trade. The tremendous manufacturing muscle of China is amazing and the toy trade, which used to take many months to develop and market new toys now face a couple weeks turnaround from the many Chinese "knock off" companies.

A great article that should give us all food for thought as we ponder what economic winds will blow our way in '04.

Merry Christmas everyone. Alain

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Day Off

I'm taking a day off...however, there are two items of note: Read the January issue of Wired especially the article "101 Ways to Save the Internet." Interesting read.

And I encourage you to get the latest issue of Utne, especially the series of articles "The Power of Rest" since that is what we do very little of now that we have the Internet and 24/7 has been seared into our consciousness.

Off to pick up my 21 year-old from the airport to see how much smarter I've become since he last was with us....college does that, you know.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Business is Personal

John Porcaro's latest blog on business being personal is exactly why many of us blog and another example how the Internet is changing the texture and context of business relationships. Like John, and others who have taken up his discourse, there are days when I struggle on how to balance what I see as purely business and what is personal.

But the freedom to be yourself and to share who you are philosophically as well as your skills and experience is what blogging is all about and ultimately what business should be about. The other day, my partner and I presented to an existing client doing an agency review. That we were given the opportunity to move from being seen as simply "the guys who developed a website" to being more was due to the personal relationships we had developed. And what we know about the client---and what they know about us---is based on a growing and reciprocal process where the willingness to have a deeper relationship has become a valued component of how we do business.

What is so powerful about the premise that business is personal is that it allows for both sides to see whether they even want to work with each other. That's a plus as it allows you to work with people and companies that enrich your business and makes what you do that much more rewarding besides "making a living."

Business is, indeed, personal and that's what I see good marketers, PR pros and others doing more and more. For the longest time, I felt like the lonely Maytag repairman in sharing my personal philosophy and experiences in a business and classroom setting. With blogs, I exult being in the company of other risk takers who are open to exposing their "true" selves. Story telling, especially personal ones, bring a freshness and honesty that is hard to beat and ultimately reaches our most basic human emotions. Keep on blogging...and like John says, if I don't want to hear about his daily travails as a human being, father and husband, I can just move on.

Another Company That Gets It

Today's LA Times has an article on the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa and their renovation efforts (This is a very upscale place)...What is unique is that instead of laying off many of the employees as they've dramatically curtailed operations, the Inn decided to retrain as many of their staff as possible to help do the renovation. A waitress is now leading a paint crew and a flower arranger is now working with electrical systems. The retraining program saved 150 jobs. Manager Thad Hyland said, "No one who wanted to do it was turned away."

The lesson here is that recognizing the power and value of motivated and dedicated employees is a marketing driven organization's best bet in distinguishing itself in the marketplace. At the Inn many of the employees were long time staff, some with 40 years service. The key here is that solutions that make a company stronger---especially during a transition---are often not just the right business decisions but also the right moral ones. Tapping the power of people to do good work and to be a part of something bigger is often the best differentiation strategy.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A Company That Gets It, Part Deux

My partner and I went back to Turnkey yesterday (Read about them in my 11-10-03 blog entry) A Company That Gets It. We met with the Chairman of the Board , the VP of Business Development and the Marketing Manager as part of an agency review. And once again, another take away from a successful company that pays attention to details: I noticed that each Turnkey team member had a journal and kept notes.

I know people take notes at meetings, but these primo, bound journals, each with the individual's assigned number for easy identification inside is unique. The idea comes from the CEO who, in another life as a consultant, noticed that the engineers he worked with always carried them everywhere and wrote everything down. So at Turnkey this has been codified as part of the company culture. And, guess what, it works. It's all part of the brain mapping process that Turnkey has adopted as a way to tap into the intellectual capital of their team members. Another kudo and a great example to emulate.

The Key To Success?

Not necessarily a new concept but the competition in our part of paradise is steep for car dealers so one of our local Ford dealers has sent keys as part of its direct mail campaign to bring in customers. If the key starts the 2004 Explorer on the lot, it's yours. I'll be tracking to see if this is successful. Certainly got my attention and those of several other neighbors. That word FREE is always a grabber.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Class Action Suit Madness

The coffers at marketingdriven.com world headquarters were greatly enhanced this week when Mrs. marketingdriven.com received a check for 4 cents based on a settlement for a class action suit filed against AT&T Universal credit card....one that we shredded many years ago. Imagine the cost of this check and how many more like it are going out all across the country. The accompanying letter said that when the suit was brought, it was estimated that the average settlement would be $1 per client; I guess we were under performers on the credit side with them.

But it points out the cost of doing business in a litigious world.

Jacko and the Pit Bull

The news brings word that Thomas Sneddon, the prosecutor that has been hot on Michael's trail for over a decade, is now hiring a PR firm. From the article:

Sneddon's hiring of a firm to deal with the media drew immediate criticism from Jackson family spokesman Brian Oxman. He said it was improper, because ``a district attorney is supposed to try the case in court, not in the press.'' Oxman also repeated criticism of Sneddon for making jokes at a news conference last month when Jackson's arrest warrant was announced. ``It is an affront to common sense, if not professional ethics, for a DA to have a celebrity crisis management team, which is what this new PR firm styles itself as being,'' Oxman said. He added: ``First we had a press conference where the DA told jokes, and now we have a PR firm the DA has hired that also represents the Cartoon Network.''


A secretary at the district attorney's office said Sneddon would have no further comment.


In his statement, Sneddon said reporters should call the firm, Los Angeles-based Tellem Worldwide, to ``reduce the number of calls coming into the district attorney's office at this busy time.'' Tellem Worldwide president Susan Tellem said she contacted Sneddon last month and offered to help with ``media coordination'' without pay. She said that the firm has a history of volunteering and that she felt it could help both Sneddon and the news media.


So it goes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The Interview

On the media bashing trail today. Also in today's LA Times an ad from ABC Primetime about a Diane Sawyer "exclusive" interview with President Bush. There's a picture of Bush being on message, while an inset shows a bearded captured Saddam. With the headline: After the last 72 hours, can you imagine what the president now has to say? Tonight. The interview. personal. political. provocative." Enough already. Who's jamming who on this "coup"?

Strike Zone

No, I'm not talking about bowling. The strike zone in our part of California paradise is going on at the local grocers where it looks like each side is hurting but no one is moving in any new direction. And this morning's LA Times had competing ads from the two sides, each as ungiving as the other. The question is, does anyone really care at this point? We've all made other arrangements for groceries and with the holidays, no one other than the two parties appears to be hurting. So it goes.

The lesson here is that timing is important in negotiating through the media as the grocers and strikers appear to be doing. Each had an ad to counter the other so it shows some coordination. My take on this is that after a while all advertising becomes transparent no matter how compelling the message or the cause. As Mrs. marketingdriven.com is an account rep for The IE (Inland Empire) dominant newspaper, she tells me the only ones that are gaining from this advertising are the account reps who have more revenue to meet their goals.

Real People. Real News

One of the large LA tv stations advertises in the papers that they offer real people and real news. Oh, yeah? Says who? They do. So the lesson here is that if you say it often enough, it becomes real. I wonder if they've tested this message and what the results are. Why do news organizations, who hide behind the so-called journalistic shield of integrity and fair play, have to rely on advertising such as this....because the news is the hottest commodity in the media and many of those so-called tv "journalist" are simply readers with pretty faces selling a package. So ask me how I really feel. You know, fair and balanced and you be the judge sort of thing.

Monday, December 15, 2003

A Brand Weekend

We all know that a brand is an experience that you trust over and over again. This weekend as part of my Christmas gift to Mrs. marketingdriven.com, we spent a weekend in The OC (Orange County to those not in the know). It was a time of savoring past brands the entire time.

For starters, we booked a 4 star hotel on Priceline for $40 per night and got a reliable brand in the Hyatt in Irvine. Amazing price for a great room and location. We seem to get this hotel nearly every time we go on Priceline. Then we went to Las Brisas in Laguna Beach, a noted restaurant with a terrific view of the beach. They have a breakfast buffet that is an incredible value and distinguishes their brand (Their margaritas are excellent too!). Four of us ate for $40 with made to order omelettes, Belgian waffles, well, you get the picture. Another great brand value.

Then we went to Newport Pier in Newport Beach and as I turned the corner to the beach, a memory flash hit me that there was a bar I last visited 35 years ago a couple of weeks after I returned from Vietnam. Blackie's by the Sea is a hole in the wall that has remained true to its high mission statement: To serve the coldest beer around. And after 35 years, the brand was true to its word when I was served a very cold beer. Nothing has changed much in the bar and the regulars seem to be as much a part of the brand as the worn out bar decor and here, everybody knows your name. Cheers!

We then went to another brand around the corner, The Crab Cooker, and had their famous clam chowder with crunchy french bread. Again, this local brand is true to its calling. It is unpretentious, gives you great food, has friendly people and the customers love it.

I was struck with each experience...it was deja vu all over again. And it made me think that having a simple formula for success is really what each business was about. Great value and a memorable experience.

The lesson here is that brands do infect our consciousness and once we've had a great experience, we want to do it again. Like the song goes, it's never as good as the first time....but it can be as memorable if only in a different way. While I was on a karmic path this weekend, around all customers on the same path? That's the core of what branding is all about.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Creative Whack Pack

In October the marketingdriven.coms went to Boston and Vermont to see the fall colors. While visiting a bookstore near Harvard, I found a unique set of cards called Roger von Oech's Creative Whack Pack. It's a set of cards that you use as part of a creative mind stretch. I've used these cards three times with clients and with students and highly recommend them. Go to www.creativethink.com to learn more. It's a great tool to get people to snap out of their defensive mindset at yet "another retreat."

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Rejoice All You Spamees!

Hot off the wires a man in Virginia could get 20 years for spamming. While I think spam is so invasive, is 20 years a bit much? Here's the meat of the matter:

"Virginia authorities said on Thursday they had arrested and charged a North Carolina man for sending "spam" e-mail in the first use of a new state law that could bring penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said Jeremy Jaynes had been arrested earlier Thursday in Raleigh, N.C., on four counts of using fraudulent means to transmit spam. Kilgore told a news conference that officials were in negotiations for the surrender of a second man, Richard Rutowski, on the same charges.

Jaynes was charged with violating limits on the number of messages a marketer can send and falsifying routing information, both illegal under the Virginia law that carries penalties of 1-5 years in prison on each count. Although based in North Carolina, Virginia is asserting jurisdiction over Jaynes because he sent messages through computers located in the state.

"These criminals are harming businesses in Virginia, and that concerns us," Kilgore told the news conference at AOL headquarters in Dulles, Va."

An interesting context to this story is that roughly 50% of all Internet traffic in the world passes through Virginia because the major media companies such as AOL Time Warner, et al.

Willie Knows

Interesting interview in this week's Newsweek with Willie Brown, the recently departed (from office, he's very much alive!) Mayor of San Francisco and a long-time politico. I thought this quote was right on the mark marketing-wise. Enjoy:

I’m not sure anybody believes you’re exiting for good. Does it bother you to see an entertainer come into politics, and to know people get their news from Leno?

No. I just wish I had the cachet to be able to go there. Politics has always had a show-business component to it. You are marketing yourself. You are marketing your ideas. You only stay in this business if you can adapt. It doesn’t mean abandoning your values. It doesn’t mean [changing] your goals.


Love the part about marketing yourself and you only make it if you adapt. How are you adapting?

Captive Audience

Sitting on an airplane is akin to getting a root canal for me...the small seats, etc. You know the drill. But in a way, being up at 30,000 feet also allows me to get away from advertising and marketing, other than the inflight magazine and the catalogue. So now comes America West with a novel idea of using the tray tables as ad space. The program starts December 15th and will be on all 143 America West planes by the end of the first quarter 2004. Visa, B of A, Mercedes-Benz, the History Channel and others will soon be searing their messages into your brain as the Captain turns off the seat belt sign.

While I am a marketer at heart, there is simply too much noise out there, too many ads that intrude in the damndest places. This marketing graffiti reminds me of the tag line for Sherwin-Williams paints with the logo of a globe and paint dripping over most of it: "We cover the world." Isn't that the truth!

The lesson here is that we marketers are our own worst enemies, adding more clutter to already over marketer brains so that we have to raise the ante and find that nano space not yet blanketed to get just one more message out there. As a marketer you have to ask yourself, where does good taste and good marketing begin and end?

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Light 'em up if you've got 'em

When I was going through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas in 1964---yes, I'm that old---nearly everyone smoked, including yours truly. When we'd get a smoke break from our drilling and general harassment from our drill instructor, he'd shout, "light 'em up if you've got 'em." Our DI didn't smoke and hated smoke, but that was the way the world worked in those days. And he hated the smell. I thought about him last night as I read the latest issue of Newsweek where an ad by the RJ Reynolds company introduces a new kind of cigarette.

The ad shows a guy with a cigarette looking straight at you and the copy reads: "My car and clothes don't smell like smoke anymore. No lingering odor. 80% less secondhand smoke. If you want to know, you've got to go [to their website www.newcig.com]. This site is an elaborate and skillfully presented marketing approach. While I no longer smoke and like all reformed sinners don't like to be around it (another good reason not to go back to Europe), I am very much impressed with the marketing of this new cigarette.

There are many safeguards regarding entry to the site with age filters, scientific studies, warnings about smoking...all while selling Eclipse, the new kid on the cigarette block. What is interesting is how RJ Reynolds is keying on some of the most troublesome societal issues about smoking such as second hand smoke and the smell. From the marketing perspective, they're working very hard to legitimize their approach with a "public health" angle. Here are some of the pages they have on the site:

Home | RJRT.com | MySmokersRights | Site Requirements | Age Filtering Software
User Agreement | Protecting Your Privacy | Age Restricted Marketing Guidelines

The lesson here is to study this site so that you can see how intuitive and well crafted it is in addressing the issues and yet still positioning Eclipse as the cigarette of choice. With scientific studies and "straight talk" the message strategy is straight forward and doesn't try to sell you a lifestyle, but to help you rationalize a lifestyle you already have as a smoker. Fascinating stuff.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Nothing For Today

Slow news day...too much on my plate and my mind is mush right now. Come back tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by. Alain

Monday, December 08, 2003

Parsimony Kills Creativity

Being cheap can get in the way of creativity as an article in today's LA Times about Paramount studios details. Apparently, Paramount hasn't really had a blockbuster hit since Titanic, much of it because the studio focuses more on the bottom line than the creative line. Since Paramount is part of a larger conglomerate, Viacom, the bean counters rule, to the extent that producers, directors and actors are choosing other creative venues.

Cutting costs is something that is always near and dear to the CFO, but there are situations when you have to spend money to make money. Not that efficiencies can't be found in a business, it's just that sometimes you have to also give opportunity a chance by spending some bucks. In marketing, what is usually the stumbling block in organizations is the lack of understanding of what things cost. People will say, "We need ads, we need customer relationship programs, we need to do events...etc." but when the cost of doing these things come in it's another story. This is especially true with the cost of buying ad space...it can be "sticker shock" in many metropolitan markets. I remember one CEO I worked for asking me "if we cut the marketing budget in half will we get half the results?"---which was acceptable to him. It took me a while to show him that this is not how marketing works.

With Paramount's case, being safe kept money flowing into corporate coffers at an acceptable pace, but did nothing to expand the creative portfolio that can help bring in even more money and attract even more business. When risk aversion takes over a company, creativity and innovation soon get a pink slip and dull, methodical and predictable results are the norm. Soon a stultifying cadence is heard throughout the organization and the best minds take their leave.

The lesson here is that business is about taking a risk. Just opening the doors everyday is a risk. But risk can be mitigated with a courageous philosophy that allows for a creative approach to problem solving and new directions. It's not about throwing money at a problem, it's about spending money judiciously so that the intellectual spirit can thrive and make the company even stronger. Ultimately, it's about building a brand known for risk taking in a calculated way. As a marketer what are you doing to help instill a creative culture?

Friday, December 05, 2003

Internal Marketing is Critical to Your Survival!

One of the main problems that many support services have in a company is that they're seen as soft, or not bringing value, or yet being simply another cost center and not generating anything to the bottom line. Marketers know all too well that often what gets cut in a tight market is the marketing budget. It's been my experience that CFOs are especially critical allies to nurture and educate as to what marketing really is and how important it is to the organization's mission.

All to share with you an article I found on the Business Wire website about how corporate libraries are positioning themselves within their organizations as "value centers." I like that moniker "value center", it has a nice connotation. Here's the article for your review. Note the highlighted sections that truly reflect a marketing driven mindset that is so necessary for internal marketing:

Successful corporate libraries market their function as value centers rather than cost centers in order to maintain corporate support of their operations, according to a new study by research and consulting firm Best Practices, LLC. The study examines effective practices for the operation of corporate libraries and information centers in dozens of companies.

"From Books to Bytes: Creating Effective Corporate Libraries in the Digital Age," online at http://www3.best-in-class.com/rr270.htm, reveals how leading corporate information centers demonstrate value by delivering services and resources for which the benefits exceed the costs. For example:

-- Successful managers attribute their libraries' effectiveness

to tailoring programs around strategic corporate information

needs and widely promoting program benefits to users and

stakeholders
.

-- Clear mission statements help centers successfully target

their programs and assist them in securing funds.

-- Cost-effective corporate libraries must interact closely with

users and key stakeholders to learn how to build programs that

enhance productivity and enable informed business decisions.


The leading practices, managerial insights and benchmark metrics in this study are drawn from interviews and surveys at 25 companies. In addition to information on how to demonstrate library value, this report includes indicators for:

-- Reinventing information center staff roles-- Managing site licenses and resources

-- Implementing cost recovery programs

-- Maintaining a physical presence in virtual business
"The insights in this report provide information professionals with specific examples and recommendations on how to identify and close performance gaps in staffing, budgeting, recovering costs, purchasing and managing resources, providing research services, and marketing and demonstrating their value throughout their organization," said Paul Meade, Vice President at Best Practices, LLC.

Download a summary of "From Books to Bytes: Creating Effective Corporate Libraries in the Digital Age" at: http://www3.best-in-class.com/rr270.htm. For more information about this report or other benchmarking reports, contact Steve Walters at (919) 767-9256 or at swalters@best-in-class.com.

ABOUT BEST PRACTICES, LLC

Best Practices, LLC is a research and consulting firm that conducts work based on the principle that organizations can chart a course to superior economic performance by studying the best business practices, operating tactics and winning strategies of world-class companies. For more information about Best Practices, LLC, call (919) 403-0251, or visit the corporate website at http://www.best-in-class.com/.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Business Wire in association with The Gale Group and LookSmart.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group


Wow! Now that's marketing at its best and very basic. The lesson here is that marketing applies no matter what you do in an organization. It's vital for marketers to market themselves internally as well. What the libraries are doing, according to this study, is making sure people know what they do and how they support the organization's goals. Isn't that what you should be doing so that when times are tough you won't be the turkey hearing the ax being sharpened. And what the libraries are doing is strategic planning---excuse me, mind preparation---so they can anticipate internal needs and thus be part of the solution. Are you part of the solution or are you seen as a cost center?

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Slippery Slope

If you ski then you know that the sport is perhaps the last ad free space we have left, that's why an article in Newsweek's December 8th issue is disturbing as the slalom of marketing messages continue to inundate us. From Vermont's Stratton Mountain where skiers ride up the slopes in an Altoids gondola car to Mountain Dew warning signs at Vail...where does it end? Are we simply making so much noise that we are close to what the US and the former Soviet Union had with their MAD standoff scenario, Mutually Assured Destruction? I fear so.

The lesson here is that when is enough enough with our marketing messages? When do our messages become so transparent and so self-serving that it's only more of a turn off? As marketers we have to ask ourselves how insidious we want to be in our attempts to influence a buy decision. Isn't there anything sacred?

Why Can't We Be More Like The Brits?

Article in The Wall Street Journal yesterday about the National Health Service going totally electronic, hooking up every doctor, clinic, hospital and other healthcare providers into an electronic network so that it doesn't matter where the patient ends up, the information is there. Obviously, this will cost billions and IBM and others are salivating and anxious to please. If the Brits can do it, why can't we? As a long time healthcare marketer, my opinion is that our healthcare system is so disjointed and guided by special interests that in spite of our technological superiority we are a Tower of Babel when we speak reform.

When a Cautious Market Strategy Makes Sense

The Container Store is a unique offshoot of an over consumptive society and a successful and cautious retailer. The company's move into different market is based on a wait and see attitude and a niche marketing strategy that rejects getting big for the sake of getting big. In this case bigger is not better.

If you're a pack rat then this store is for you. Studying the market where space is at a premium and the need for their products desirable, The Container Store has now moved into Manhattan. Talk about compressed space there. I might suggest Tokyo as well. This private company's slow growth is a perfect example of not letting hubris carry the day and keeping your head while all around you others are losing theirs.

The lesson here is that deliberation is also a part of marketing and growing business. A methodical approach may appear to be antithetical to action-oriented marketers, but you do have to plan and study and make calculated risks. Being the best at what you do is still the best prescription for success.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Everyone is a Leader

Great article on how everyone in the enterprise is a leader...regardless of where they are in the pecking order from Wharton Newsletter. It's always been part of the marketing driven philosophy. Of course, there has to be some fancy name for it, so it's called "horizontal leadership" for those who are middle managers or even those who have no one reporting to them. Read it. It's great food for thought.

The lesson is and always has been that marketing is about leadership in many ways and places and from everyone in the business. If you're not raising the leadership consciousness of your staff then what are you doing? If everyone got on board the heavy lifting would be a lot less heavy./strong>

Chia Marketing

You can always tell it's Christmas, even if the music and decorations don't give it away, once you see the ads for Chia pets and the like. That and the clapper that turns your lights on and off, or finds your keys.

Once you pour water on your Chia you just wait for it to sprout it a lush green carpet and voila! you've got a wonderful companion sure to warm your home and hearth. And it makes me think that too often marketing is looked upon as a Chia, where you turn on the money faucet and you get instant marketing. But marketing is not a once a year event, it's an everyday event that takes thought, planning, creativity, resourcefulness and a strategic purpose integrated into the business purpose.

The lesson for marketers is simple. Do you practice Chia marketing, only coming out when it's the season or is every day your season? What have you done to make your craft important in your organization so that people clearly understand the role you play and what you contribute to the company? Or are you a clapper marketer, where your leaders clap their hands to see where you are?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Mouse Droppings

Looks like the House of Mouse is unsettled. The question is will Roy Disney's resignation and his cohort's really affect much at Disney? I know from long experience that it often takes a lot more than a disgruntled board member to get a CEO fired. I can think of several incompetents I have had the pleasure of being around that are still around. Think about HP and Carly. Not even the founder's son could dislodge her and look at how Carly has turned HP around. Monday morning quarterbacking just never works.

The lesson here is that leadership is defined in many ways, not all of them popular. Would I like to work for Eisner whom I am told is a micro-manager? Hell no. But never underestimate the power of CEOs. They didn't get where they are without strength, vision and determination. The vagaries of the marketplace and our culture is that we want instant results and sometimes that's not forthcoming so we want to toss the baby out with the bath water. The lesson for marketers is that they are CEOs of their own domain and the lessons from the guy at the top are probably worth emulating.

Is the Carrot or the Stick That Wins?

Ipsos-Insight, a marketing research firm, reports that paid downloading of music doubled in the first half of 2003. So the question the RIAA needs to ask: Is it the threat of a lawsuit for piracy or simply that people would rather do the right thing, especially since the product is of better quality? Obviously, suing old ladies and 12 year olds is not a viable way to win hearts and minds over this issue. And Apple has certainly showed that paid downloading can make money for everyone...if the price is right.

Private Segway Reporting For Duty

A CNN article on how the military is looking to develop the Segway transporter into a lean, mean fighting machine. The potential is major for the US Military so it looks like those futuristic comics are right on the mark...it's a brave new world. Read about it.

The lesson here is that for every potential market that flops another door can open...that is if you look hard enough. Creativity is certainly the key to business momentum and marketers should be part of this. Are you opening new doors for your business?

How Price Reinvents A Product & Gains The Upper Hand

In this morning's Column 1 of the LA Times, there's an article about tobacco farmers reinventing themselves as....tobacco farmers. Since the huge settlement with Big Tobacco several years ago, the companies have lost tons of business and are pricing out their long time customers. Tobacco farmers have had to find another way to make a living. But understanding price sensitivity, small tobacco companies are making an end run for the addicted customers. With a crop in the fields, Bob and Mike Armmerman decided to start their own cigarette company based on price. Called Kentucky's Best, in 2 and a half years their annual sales have gone from $2 million to $55 million and they expect to double that next year!

To fund the settlement big tobacco had to raise the price with an average $3.50 per pack. But the small guys don't have to since they're not part of the settlement. So Kentucky's Best and other small companies are the price leaders for those who can't quit. While the long term viability of this business remains to be seen, it is keeping these guys alive for a bit longer.

The lesson here is that for every negative situation there is an opportunity waiting to be exploited. Whether it's price, or service, or product or whatever, the entrepeneur and nimble company is there to take advantage. So how are you looking at your marketplace and what are you doing to find those kinks in the competition's armor in order to rule your world....albeit only temporarily?

Monday, December 01, 2003

When Customers Reach An Impasse

There's a widow who lives down the street and we've gotten to know her over the years through our chats when she does her daily constitutional. She's watched my first-born go through his teen years and enter college. And loves to chat with our six-year old; she even makes a special trip to our house on Halloween with a bag of treats selected just for his taste.

So today, she reached out to us with a problem she's having with her newspaper delivery since Mrs. marketingdriven.com works for the main newspaper in the so-called Inland Empire in advertising sales. Apparently, our friend has not been getting regular delivery and when she calls to complain, she has to go through telephone hell before she can even talk to a real person...and then her morning paper gets to her by mid-afternoon.

When she knocked on the door she had a neatly written note for the circulation manager with the hopes that my better half will take it to him and make it better. "Otherwise," she told me, "I'm going to get the other paper although I don't want to." Mrs. marketingdriven.com will ferry the message to the powers that be tomorrow and we'll see what happens.

The lesson here is that often customers will go to extraordinary lengths to stay with a product or service they like and want. And sometimes, the companies just don't seem to listen. While getting a newspaper in a timely manner seems to be a given to most of us, it's been a sore point for my neighbor and she's just about had it. The real lesson here is that no one is listening to her or taking the initiative to solve her problem. As a marketer you have to ask all along the service line whether you're really listening or simply going through the motions as my wife's newspaper is apparently doing.