Saturday, February 28, 2004

Saturday Morning Catch-up

1. A Captive Audience: Jr. brought home his school's monthly lunch menu for March yesterday, which is printed---and dominated---with colorful ads for WB Kids' channel and the movie Scooby-Doo2. So guess what? He wants to see the movie and guess what again? He wants to watch Kids WB programs. Think about the incredible influence this has on our children in terms of making them voracious little consumers. I am calling the school district Monday to see how much advertising money they get from this. I'll keep you posted. It's simply another form of marketing graffiti for a captive audience.

2. Another Captive Audience: A recent article in the LA Times business section detailed how the big phone companies are fighting against convicts getting calling cards that can reduce the cost of calls by 40%. Apparently, this is big business---as is the prison industry---to the tune of over $200+ million per year, and the profits are shared with the state. Security reasons are cited in that the authorities could not monitor where the calls are going, but think about it; while the people convicted of crimes may belong there, keeping in touch with family and friends are important parts of the social fabric that can help them bring their lives back together. And the families suffer due to the extra cost of phone calls, especially since many of those incarcerated generally come from a lower socio-economic status. While the security reasons are valid---it has been documented that career criminals do plot new crimes via the phones from the prison---giving those prisoners who genuinely want an opportunity to maintain vital familial contacts, at a fair price, should be a part of the system's focus. Additionally, it's not like the convicts can make money at a part-time job and if they do they get paid only pennies per hour.

3. A Bigger Captive Audience: Los Angeles' tallest building (73 stories) will now sport a new 7 ton, 75 feet logo of US Bank, the building's largest corporate tenant. The captive audience? 5 million daily commuters. The deal for the owners of the building is that US Bank has signed a 15 year lease to rent floors in the building for $53 million over the course of the lease with the caveat that they put the signs up. So as I sit in my car I'll be part of the captive audience.

4. Mouse Droppings, Continued: A huge color ad in the LA Times yesterday from the Walt Disney Company: "The Walt Disney Company is America's Most Admired Entertainment Company....according to Fortune Magazine March 8, 2004" with further reassuring comments about stock that went up 43% in 2003, future earnings anticipated to be 30% in 2004, etc. With a final message that "Our future is in good hands. Our momentum is real and growing. Our legacy inspires all we do. Thank you for standing with us." I guess with Calpers pulling the plug due to Eisner's "lackluster leadership and vision" the House of Mouse (Eisner) decided that a warm and reassuring ad like this would make it all well in Fantasy Land. It's going to take more than ads to make things right, and the fight from dissidents such as Roy Disney is prompting this effort and will result in more revelations---like this morning's LA Times article about the Michael Ovitz and Eisner fall-out---but what is important to remember is that the power of advertising for the general masses is still important in turning public opinion around to a more favorable cast.

All for now....clearing up the desk and going out into the warm California sunshine for the weekend. Good marketing to you all. Alain

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Creativity is Passion in Action

I have been pondering creativity and how important it is in marketing lately. When creativity is mentioned as being important to a CEO or CFO usually the eyes glaze over and it's all over....they want concrete facts, processes they can touch, results they can see on the bottom line or in operations. Creativity is for the namby pamby, artsy fartsy types and there's not much tolerance for it. And if there is, it's only within strict confines. As a marketer I've dealt with the creative types especially with the advertising agencies, when sometimes creativity seems to be what matters most---and creating award winning advertising---versus creatively inspired results. I've been in ad campaign meetings where the passion was so thick and commanding that very little of solving the problem was discussed.

The balance between business and creativity cannot often be measured, but it also cannot be denied. For example, I work on websites with talented partners who not only understand code and complex algorithms to make things work---something that is often totally foreign to me---but also how language works and how intuitive a site should be to get the maximum value from it. Now that's a creative process that is important to our clients and yet it's not something you can really talk about other than in generalities. My guys are good, sensitive and focused web designers and creative....they think from within the confines of a website based on client needs---and budgets and expectations---and also outside of it to bring a knowledge and insightful dialogue that truly makes their work accomplish far more than what we really get paid for. Some might say that's a dumb business decision, but once we take on a project, we don't just follow the letter of the contract, we actually exceed it because that's what we do and because we're intrigued with the challenge and solving the client's problems as thoroughly as possible.

While I am the demonstrative French type, given to wearing my passion openly and exuberantly and willing to charge into battle and damn the torpedoes, they are quieter and more given to reflexive thought....not that I charge out of the chutes half cocked every day---they are more methodical in their understanding of the world, more in tune to mathematical equations while I hear loud symphonies. The mix seems to work well and I am tempered by their demeanor and appreciative to be in their midst. I reflect upon this tonight because I think that passion comes in many forms and that it stirs creativity in ways we cannot measure.

So back to the premise that creativity is passion in action, how can creativity be nurtured within a business so that it yields not only bottom line results, but also helps transform the culture to be more open and willing to take a risk. It's been my experience that there are not enough people who can submerge their own egos and experiential base to take a risk on allowing the minions and others in their companies who report to them to be risk takers and creative with their jobs, thus pushing the company to new heights. It's really about actually believing what all those mission statements and HR policies and missives we send to our customers that we encourage creativity and ownership of each step of our relationship with them and with ourselves. How often does that really happen?

As I wander this creativity maze, I know how I thrive in an environment and with clients who are on the cusp of conventional thought and who often slip over to the other side to challenge the status quo. It's also about trusting what you don't know more than what you do. After all, isn't creativity the antithesis of all that we're taught in our daily lives once the institutions grab us at an early age and indoctrinate us to accept and to conform.

What does this have to do with marketing? Everything. If you're not creative in solving problems, then you don't belong there. Sure there are enough marketers who can "learn" what to do and may be able to do a fair job, but what it really takes is a creative urge that cannot be denied. That's what separates the mediocre and mainstream from the unique. If you think of all the marketing around you that works, that genuinely positions a product or service to show it's attributes and value to solve problems, then you're seeing creativity in action....And with passion it's all that much more powerful and effective.

The lesson here is that passion is creativity in one form. The marketer then takes that and molds it to his/her own mold to bring thinking that is critical and sensitive to the human condition because ultimately, that's what it's all about. Thanks for bearing for my late night musings. Good marketing to you!


Sunday, February 22, 2004

Beyond Customer-Focus

Ever go to a store to find that the clerk, or "associate", or "team member" is less than helpful when you need genuine help? Thought so. And don't you just love it when a company screams at you how your satisfaction is the most important thing and when you "Can't Get No Satisfaction" the entire premise goes out the window? Going beyond customer-focus is more than just talking about it to actually doing it and then going beyond because that's what brings customer loyalty that you can actually charge more for. Just think Nordstroms...I know it's a tired example, but they did sort of corner the market on this stuff.

As I experience the marketplace as a marketer and consumer it seems to me that where companies go astray from their customer service pledges is when a problem occurs and the "associate" cannot, will not or does not know how to solve it. Solving customer issues completely seems a given and that means giving the "team member" the training, tools and authority to solve the problem right there or have a way to move it fast up the chain of command to get it solved. I know it's another Duh!

And going beyond customer-focus means that the entire organization is geared to problem solving PDQ. That means that the "Team Members" are the entire organization, and not just those whose face is to the public. That's why I've always found it absolutely the most stupid concept that marketing and sales and PR are usually different departments, not usually on the same page and so often territorial....they should all be working towards going beyond customer-focus, which means actually working together. You'd think. More on that in another blog.

Beyond customer-focus also means actually listening to the customers and letting them become a part of your company as trusted advisors. Since I work primarily in healthcare you'd think that listening to patients at probably a most vulnerable time would be central to the enterprise. Guess again. All the patient satisfaction surveys are not going to help anything if you don't fix what's wrong after the patients tell you. Most of that also centers around hiring the right people and instilling a strong and empathetic customer focus. Ditto for training physicians in medical schools and giving refresher courses. I've been working in an academic medical center and the main focus, sad to report, are the physicians and their research. Detachment from emotions is too often the norm. While the medical center is rightfully respected for the cutting-edge treatments they offer, getting them to a level of customer-focus would be a step up in many instances...and going beyond that seems a naive dream.

Beyond customer-focus is also about anticipating what people will need in the future. It's thinking creatively to enhance the product or service before the customer even gets there. That's called forethought and it means not resting on your laurels but understanding that standing still is never an option when it comes to success.

Beyond customer-focus is really the next level that begins to distinguish the good from the great. It's an uphill battle that involves creating a company culture that is strong enough to let the inmates run the asylum so that all can survive beyond expectations. It's about risk and vision. And it doesn't happen enough.

Friday, February 20, 2004


If anything most people would say I am a passionate man on many issues, especially marketing. So I can definitely relate to two passionate issues now taking center stage on our cultural landscape: "The Passion of the Christ" film by Mel Gibson and the passion that is awakening us old Vietnam War veterans on both sides of that issue.

With Mel Gibson, what started out to be an uphill battle to get the film distributed has been one marked with incredible momentum in the past several weeks and one with a definite marketing slant. At first it was thought the film would be a non-starter, but it has now been projected to have a very strong kickoff when it hits the screens, perhaps even bigger than "The Last Samurai" et al. The reason? Not only the controversy that has been increasingly and thoroughly covered by the media from Diane Sawyer on down, but the marketing by the Christian churches that are building entire campaigns for church attendance around the movie. I have received several direct mail pieces from local churches inviting me and my family to preview the film and to join in several Sundays of discussion about Christ, using the movie's components as speaking points.

The lesson here is that marketing indeed never stops and is a great emancipator when it comes to bringing forth a's not simply the purview of us marketers, but belongs to everyone who believes in what they do. Our part of California paradise is one of the fastest growing in the state and in the country and marketing by churches, using sophisticated marketing tactics, are increasingly visible. Passion does motivate and marketing is often the means to express it.

Passion #2

Another example of passion at work and the marketing/PR engines being a major component of such is the Comcast/Disney "take over." Op-eds have been in the LA Times for the past week or so, business programs are ga ga over it and it looks like we're in for a long haul on this one. Never underestimate the power of passion in the marketplace and the ability of companies to tap that passion and turn it into the exposure---albeit sometimes controversial---needed to make a case and perhaps a sale.

Another example of passion in the marketplace is around Netflix, the online DVD rental service. It has done very little marketing other than word of mouth since the ones that subscribe are absolutely passionate about it. What's not to like when for a $20 monthly fee you have access to over 15,000 films delivered to your door. No wonder Blockbuster is going South. And it brings to mind that making your customers evangelists for your service or product is key to a low budget marketing effort with high yield. Passion works if managed correctly and perhaps the reason it works is that there is such a seemingly lack of things to believe in in our over-branded, jaded world. People are looking for things to believe in and passion that delivers the goods, such as Netflix fill the bill.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The New Six-Pack

Saw an ad last night for Viagra that offered a free six pill sampler with a visit to "your doctor." This is obviously in response to the competition from Levitra and Cialis. I guess this will be the new six-pack guys pick up for the weekend...but seriously, folks, this shows you how the competition is forcing Pfizer to respond by offering more. Cialis and Levitra have been beating the advertising bushes to get their message across and the street moniker for Cialis is "The Weekender" since the residual effect can last as long as 36 hours.

The lesson here is that no matter how far ahead of the competition you think you are, there's always someone in the shadows working on toppling you off the pedestal. Being first in a new market is one thing, staying first is another. The main take away is to consistenly perform well (no pun intended, really) and to focus on how to improve the product and the image. That's why marketing never ends.

Lost In Translation

An article in the LA Times in the Wednesday business section, featured Autobac, a Japanese auto parts store that just opened a 35,000 square foot store in Stanton with all the goodies and accessories for Japanese car owners. Southern California is a big market for Japanese car aficionados and getting your car up to snuff to have serious street cred is usually the purview of small specialty tune shops. What is unique about Autobac is the sheer variety of products from a zillion custom wheels---these can go as high as $8,000 for 22-inch wheels---to over 130 motor oils to pamper all those Hondas et al.

While this is all great, the store hasn't met business expectations in spite of Autobacs size even though the company has over 533 stores in Japan and 10 other countries. One factor is that they don't have the buying power of Manny, Moe & Jack at the Pep Boys, and that makes their prices up to 30% higher. Also, when they first appeared they set up the store in the Japanese manner and didn't group products in the familiar American way, besides having products such custom ashtrays that hang around your neck since in Japan it's the polite way to stub out your smoke so not to impose on those around you. Additionally there were no products for SUVs, a big part of the market. Most of these problems are being fixed by the American execs, but it says a lot about knowing your market and tailoring your products and services to satisfy those markets.

The lesson here is what I preach non-stop to my students as they write their business and marketing plans: Know Your Market! Too often marketers make assumptions about a market that are not realistic. You can never really ever know enough about a market and staying in touch with the customers and the trends and expectations are key to maintaining and growing market share. With Autobac part of the initial problems were cultural. That's why marketing must be operationally-based in that as with this example, how the store is laid out and having the right products---and competitive prices---for the customers are key to success. And that's another reason why marketing never stops.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Common Sense

Great article in the March issue of Fast Company about Tom Davenport, one of the management thinkers who brought us reengineering, on his latest book on management. What struck me was this stuff should be common sense and yet we're all talking about it, writing about it (like here and elsewhere) and it makes me wonder if we are really having any impact in how people use common sense in their approach to business.

In the article, Davenport lays out 8 key points for winning with ideas:

1. Companies compete with their brains as well as their brawn
2. Great ideas have three key elements
3. There are truly no new ideas out there
4. Innovation comes from the front lines, but the top sets the tone
5. Every new initiative needs a champion
6. Sell no idea before its time
7. The story sells the idea
8. All ideas have a life cycle

While I am obviously simplifying what he says, the key points are certainly things all of us who are in the strategy, marketing, PR and business development trenches understand and have experienced. If I was to place value on what he says---and I'm going to read his new book What's the Big Idea? Creating and Capitalizing on the Best Management Thinking---is that we in the business world have to have our philosophers who are able to put theory and practice into the common vernacular so that those who are in charge and those still learning about the real world of business can have some context as to what they are doing or not doing. Our roles as marketers, etc. is to educate as well as to perform.

The more I read, learn and write about business and marketing, I am getting a more skeptical edge to my thinking about all the tomes and articles about marketing etc. It seems that what we do is best illuminated one client at a time, one situation or crisis at a time, and on the most intimate and personal level. General theories abound and all the credentials don't mean much until proven in a real life situation. While I teach and write for the exact purpose of making a difference, I also know that regardless of what I do in those arenas mean nothing if the people who have hired me to bring some clarity, direction and a reasoned process to their problems are not satisfied with the results, or don't get it and it gets lost in the translation.

My lesson for today is that words are simply that. Reasoned and educated actions that are uniquely customized to each customer's needs, expectations and goals are what matter in the long run. Marketing is personal on many levels and theory is just that. It's still about relationships that connect and creatively solve problems.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Purpose Driven

The February 16th issue of Forbes has a column---under the moniker of Digital Rules---by Rich Karlgaard. In it he talks about a book The Purpose-Driven Church by Rick Warren, a minister from Orange County, California, who built a church from the ground up. Rich took the basic tenets from the book and postulated a business approach to the learnings. Here's something from the column that is right on the mark and bears repeating. I have highlighted what I think are the overarching principles as I practice them:

"The Purpose-Driven Church has sold more than 1 million copies. Its sequel, The Purpose-Driven Life, has sold 12 million copies. Whatever you think about Warren or his religious beliefs, he has discerned a consumer need out there.

So let's engage our imaginations, substitute the word "business" for "church" and see what Warren has to tell us.

• Don't try to make your business grow. Instead, work to make your business healthy. Because if it's healthy, it will grow.

• Don't be afraid to make it up as you go along. Warren quotes Mark Twain, who once said: "I knew a man who grabbed a cat by the tail and learned 40% more about cats than the man who didn't." A healthy business is one that tries many things that don't work--and has the scratches and scars to prove it.

• Don't trap yourself in costly infrastructure. To accommodate Saddleback's continual growth, Warren used 79 different facilities for functions in the church's first 15 years--schools, bank buildings, recreation centers, theaters, restaurants, large homes, even a 2,300-seat tent. Only in 1995, when the church had grown to 10,000 worshippers per weekend, did Warren erect Saddleback's own building. "The shoe must never tell the foot how big it can grow," he says.

• Don't compete for market share. Instead, compete with nonconsumption. "The church [business] must offer people something they cannot get anywhere else," Warren says.

• Sell big! "I've discovered that challenging people to a serious commitment actually attracts people rather than repels them," says Warren. "The greater commitment we ask for, the greater response we get."

• Faith and dedication won't overcome lack of skill and technology. Funny words from a preacher, but how true. "One of my favorite verses," Warren says, "is Ecclesiastes 10:10: 'If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.'"

• Borrow from others' successes. "Anytime I see a program working in another church [business], I try to extract the principle behind it and apply it in our church. I'm very grateful for the models that have helped me. I learned a long time ago that I don't have to originate everything for it to work."

• Never enter a new business without first picking someone to lead it. "If no leader emerged, we would wait on God's timing before beginning a ministry," says Warren.

• Purpose not only defines what your business should do, it defines what it shouldn't do. "The secret to effectiveness is to know what really counts. Then do what really counts."

• Nothing should precede the purpose of your business. "Plans, programs and personalities don't last," says Warren. Only purpose lasts. It can heal your business, too. "Nothing will revive a discouraged church [business] faster than rediscovering its purpose."

Stay focused and be purpose-driven and, of course, marketing-driven. Alain

Interesting Facts

Trying to rekindle the brain cells after a long weekend off and found these facts in the February 23rd issue of BusinessWeek:

1. The fact that we are a nation of extremes when it comes to food---from Atkins and Anoxerics to Obesity---is clearly borne out when you go to your local fast food outlet. A study of Philadelphia restaurants by the University of Pennsylvania and the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, compares dish sizes in both cities and comes up with the fact that in Philadelphia Chinese restaurants portion out 72% more food than in Paris, with Pizza it's 32% and for ice cream it's 24%. Vive la difference!

2. As the father of a college junior I can attest that the cost of textbooks is going through the roof. A study by Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group cites a 40% increase in average textbook outlays from 1997 to 2003. The total jumped from $642 to $898---I can tell you that my son's texts this semester were in the $500 range. Talk about a captive market. And the publishers are constantly changing texts so that used books are not even available.

Cheers. Alain

Friday, February 13, 2004

Quick Thoughts On Un-Valentine's Day

It's a tradition in our house to not celebrate Valentine's Day, but to celebrate Un-Valentine's Day on February 13th. At least it's a tradition with me and Mrs. goes along with it. It's my way of protesting this Hallmark holiday where I have seen many manly men wilt because they forgot or didn't buy the right thing. It's also my anti-marketing protest since I believe that every day should be a declaration of love for your main don't need to inflict any more guilt trips than we all already have. All to say that this morning's LA Times had a big splash on so-called Passion Parties, where women sell sex toys and other "romantic" items a la tupperware style. Apparently it's a growing business. A marketer will leave no stone unturned if there's a potential market and what sells better than sex.

The lesson today is that marketing never stops, especially at the bedroom. It's all on watching the trends and knowing your audience. So are you organizing Passion Parties for what you market?


Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Maintream Ain't So Valuable Anymore

When I first came to the US, the entire world was in black and white and we had three networks to chose from. Other than watching the sermonettes at the end of the day, usually around midnight, there wasn't a whole lot to watch on TV if you were a night owl...or any time really as the programming was so bad. As the medium grew in popularity so did the value for Madison Avenue, ad the advertising agencies were euphemistically referred to. Television was the medium of choice for big ad campaigns from cigarettes to the new Edsel. Now we live in a nano-second world of so many channels and options, it's hard to imagine how we ever survived the Eisenhower years and into the 60s and 70s to today's fast-paced life.

All to point out that the main networks are in a world of hurt as cable comes on stronger every day, bringing new programming that far surpasses the pap that the formulal sitcoms and dramatic shows present us. Advertisers are looking at all their options including anything that will break through the clutter and sneak around the increasingly pervasive Tivo and Tivo-like ad-skipping gizmos that allow us to zap some blessed relief from ads blaring at us for a few seconds. This was clearly brought home yesterday in an article in the Wall Street Journal regarding the buzz at the American Association of Advertising Agencies Media Conference and Trade Show in Orlando.

The chief marketing officer of Procter & Gamble, Jim Stengel, one of the biggest advertisers on TV stated to the gathering execs that, "I believe today's marketing model is broken....brands that rely too heavily on mainstream media....will lose touch." It seems to be a trend. American Express used to spend nearly 80% of its marketing budget on TV ads in 1994, now spends about 35%. That's why you see more integrated campaigns using a variety of tactics from Internet marketing to direct mail to product placement, PR, etc. It's a balancing of sorts.

I teach my students that marketing is not about advertising, and most often TV advertising for a healthcare organization such as a hospital isn't a viable option. If I see an ad that says we care one more time, well, I can see why people go postal, after all isn't caring supposed to be a given in healthcare? In the markets I work, there's too much spillage to be able to target effectively and it's costly. Besides it also goes to my mantra that marketing is operational. Yes, you need to talk about what you stand for and what you can do for the consumers, but it's more important to view marketing from an operational point of view. If you don't deliver the goods, then there isn't any point in talking about it especially on TV.

As my college son always says, "Your point?" It's simple: marketing is about ingenuity in positioning the product or service. It's about differentiatiion so the customers can make a buy decision. It's also about performing first and talking about it second. The two go hand in hand.

One more thing....I just received this quote which is right on with our topic du jour: "Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results, all the rest are costs." - Peter Drucker

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Everyone Has a Message

I had lunch yesterday with a fellow Frenchman who is also a marketer and lives in my part of California's paradise. We met at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago when I heard him and his family speak French and I introduced myself. Who would think that in a valley of about 100,000 souls that there would be two marketers of the French persuasion in the same area?

All to say that my newfound friend kept me speaking French---albeit it is becoming somewhat rusty and he kindly corrected me---and discussed life in the US, politics, and marketing. His message to me did not become clear until a few hours later when I realized that when I spoke of my passion for marketing he was trying to tell me that passion is one thing, but focus is another. I agree. Passion is only part of the equation and people hire me because I am passionate about marketing and their businesses, but problem solving and execution should be equal masters of your brand.

So my lesson is that Philippe's message was one that came all the way from France to find me at a time that I am working on a book, working with new partners and thinking through many other opportunities in my life. Everyone you meet has a message, but we often don't hear them. Sometimes when we think we know the answer, such as with our clients, we may not have the answer at all. That's why we must listen ever more closely, shutting out the internal dialogue that loops through our sacred cows of knowledge, ever looking for the thread that will let us "see" more clearly what the real issue is.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Donald Understands That Branding Never Stops

I haven't been watching the so-called reality show The Apprentice where wannabes get a chance to win a top spot working for Donald Trump for a year at $250K....And like all reality shows they have to basically lower their standards and do stupid things. According to the latest info in the papers about this show, the "girls" seem to winning by using their feminine wiles to score big time with Daddy Trump. Gee, who knew?

An article in this morning's Wall Street Journal caught my eye about this show since it talks about how The Donald is using the show to continuously brand himself and his properties from condos, golf courses, buildings and casinos. As the article claims, "The show blurs distinction between advertising and entertainment by purporting to offer up the real thing---Mr. Trump's properties, lifestyle and personality." The show seems to be striking a chord as it drew 18.4 million viewers last week and had the second-highest concentration of viewers with annual incomes of $100K+. Amazing. You'd think that after a hard day in a real office, full of politics and other modern day niceness, that this audience would be the least likely to tune in.

Even though I am not a viewer, the message is clear: No matter how much money you've got and how much your brand is recognized, you never stop branding. The Donald is right on. So the question for all marketers is, are you always looking for opportunities to build your brand?

Monday, February 09, 2004

When I Get Old, I Want Room Service

Mrs. just sent me this from one of her best friends regarding long term care once I get really, really old. It seems to be a good alternative:

"Long Term Care Plan at Holiday Inn

NO Nursing Home for me! With the average cost for a Nursing Home per day reaching $188.00, there is a better way when we get old & feeble. I have already checked on reservations at the Holiday Inn for a combined long term stay discount and senior discount of $49.23 per night. That leaves $138.77 a day for:

1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner in any restaurant I want, or room service.
2. Laundry, gratuities and special TV movies.

Plus, they provide a swimming pool, a workout room, a lounge, washer, dryer, etc. Most have free toothpaste and razors, and all have free shampoo and soap. They treat you like a customer, not a patient. $5 worth of tips a day will have the entire staff scrambling to help you. There is city Bus stop out front, and seniors ride free. The Handicap bus will also pick you up (if you fake a decent limp). To meet other nice people, call a Church bus on Sundays. For a change of scenery,
take the Airport shuttle Bus and eat at one of the nice restaurants there. While you're at the airport, fly somewhere. Otherwise the cash keeps building up. It takes months to get into decent nursing homes. Holiday Inn will take your reservation today. And - you are not stuck in one place forever, you can move from Inn to Inn, or even from city to city. Want to see Hawaii? They have a Holiday Inn there too. TV broken? Light bulbs need changing? Need a mattress replaced? No
problem. They fix everything, and apologize for the inconvenience. The Inn has a night security person and daily room service. The maid checks to see if you are ok. If not, they will call the undertaker or an ambulance. If you fall and break a hip, Medicare will pay for the hip, and Holiday Inn will upgrade you to a suite for the rest of your life.

And no worries about visits from family. They will always be glad to find you, and probably check in for a few days mini-vacation. The grandkids can use the pool. What more can you ask for? >There are always group rates!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or we could even consider upgrading to Embassy Suites!!

Think about it!! '


I am more than ever convinced that besides our expertise, marketing consultants also offer hope to the clients. Our and BigGiantMedia---offer a panoply of services ranging from the usual business and marketing plans to retreat facilitation as well as websites, advertising, etc. But what is clear is that often the customers have their vision but they lack the fundamental approaches to think through critical issues that are not directly related to what they know best. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be doing what they're doing---although we've all had clients who should be doing something else---it's just they don't know what they don't know about what we do...that's when we come in and educate them and give them hope that we know what we're doing and we're going to do the best we can for them.

It takes an openness and a willingness from the client that can only be nurtured with a close match with you, the consultant or firm. It doesn't mean that we're the saviors, but it does mean that we're there to deal with the problems of marketing and developing business for them. We have to be honest about what we do can what we can accomplish for them. And in that sense we bring hope besides our expertise. It's about a solid human connection that transcends the usual barriers, where two people, or companies, are working towards a common goal.

More Airlines Thoughts

I read where Delta is launching a low-cost airline called Song. Going after Jet Blue and the ubiquitously-named Ted by United Airlines...go figure. If they don't know how to bring costs down in their regular airline, how can they think they can do it now with a low-cost one? Marketing myopia at its's all about operational efficiencies. Putting a new product together of the same ilk when you're already losing money doesn't make sense.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Fly Blue

I just booked a flight to New York City on Jet Blue via their website. An amazing customer experience....all very positive. I have a cousin who flies Blue all the time and he swears by them in terms of price and service. This will be the first time for the marketingdriven.coms on Blue. If the website is any indication of how easy they make it to fly, they may have a new convert. The website is incredibly simple to use and intuitive. That sold me. And the price is outstanding. 4 round trips San Diego to New York for $706. It's no wonder they are shaking up the industry....price and easy customer interactions. Wow, such a deal!

Friday, February 06, 2004

Pizza Diplomacy

An article in the business section of my local rag sheet, the Inland Empire's Press-Enterprise, about one of our local pizza company's unique diplomatic effort of reaching out to the Pizza Place in Baghdad, Iraq. The Murrieta Pizza Experience has several aficionados in Iraq serving with the Coalition Forces and they frequent the Baghdad emporium. Our part of California's bankrupt paradise is relatively close to Camp Pendleton so many military families live in our valley so the pizza diplomacy hits close to home. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"Kip Keune's favorite restaurants are California Pizza Experience in Murrieta and the Pizza Place in Baghdad, Iraq. At one he takes his family and enjoys karaoke during dinner. In the other, he dines with a machine gun on his lap. Armed or not, "when you're in Baghdad and eating pizza, life is good," he says. Keune, 40, of Murrieta, is a military special forces retiree who now works as a civilian contractor for the U.S. government in Iraq. On a recent trip to the Middle East, Keune took along a banner from California Pizza Experience, which was stamped by Iraqi customs officials and later signed by some of his co-workers. Keune and his work pals hung the banner between two U.S. tanks and posed for pictures, which they e-mailed home.

Dave Morrison, owner of California Pizza Experience, keeps a picture from Keune on the counter in his restaurant. "We get a lot of customers from the Marine base and the Navy," Morrison said. "I've had a lot of people look at it and say, 'You're kidding.'" The pizza in the photo is not from Murrieta, Morrison said, adding, "We could never get that through customs." Keune says he likes fostering cultural exchanges. That's why he took the banner to the owners of the Pizza Place in Baghdad. When he returns to Iraq later this month, he'll take them California Pizza Experience T-shirts, gifts from Morrison. The Murrieta restaurant owner is getting a batch of shirts printed up special.

His Baghdad friends are contemplating changing the name of their restaurant to California Pizza Experience, he said, adding that the T-shirts could cinch the deal."

The lesson here is that opportunity for creating awareness and a bond with customers is everywhere, even in a war zone. The Murrieta Pizza Experience will probably be swamped with business---and they are very good as I can attest to---and they've gotten thousands of dollars of free exposure. Sometimes it's not about slick campaigns, it's about seizing an opportunity that is genuine and from the heart. Who knows, maybe that first franchise for them will be in Iraq so they can claim to be an international company. What are you doing to think different to create a brand opportunity?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Timing & Preparation

Every thing in life is about timing and managing important clients is about timing at crucial steps along the creative process. We are developing a major website for a big client that has been very good to us. A couple of weeks ago, we asked them to view the site so we could get feedback and show our progress. What we failed to do was realize that someone new was looking at the site at the behest of the administrator and that we hadn't done a very good job of explaining where we were on the development. I know, I know, when you assume something you make an ass out u and me.

So when we received what we perceived as a less than friendly response and a checklist with all the things that were not what they expected, alarm bells rang in our shop and we immediately regrouped. The gist is that we are dealing with people who don't do what we do on a daily basis so their expectations were not met. Even though we know we're probably 85% complete, all they saw were things that were not linked yet, some typos and also the strategies we used to build certain sections were not as clear to them as when we first got the job. So we had to resell and reassure and accept responsibility for the miscommunication...and then they took responsibility for their part and we all went home happy and on the right track.

We learned a lesson today that is a good one, mainly that all relationships, especially critical business ones are about making sure you communicate often and clearly. Ever so humble now, I can report that we learned more about ourselves and how we work and how to better relate to our clients on their terms and in ways they can understand.

Each client is unique and when you involve them in the creative process is not hard and fast as a rule, but when you do you'd better be prepared to help them in ways they can understand and your timing needs to be right. Isn't all marketing about that anyway?

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Janet Redux

A friend and reader of this blog sent in the following:

"As old and hackneyed as it may be, the old saying that one pointing finger means three fingers are pointing back at one’s self fits the great half-time nipple flashing flap. Media organizations, like any other ‘organism’ do what they must to survive. Where do you suppose MTV got the idea that the half-time show they staged would attract and hold viewers? It surely wasn’t a shot in the dark or a hunch. Cable channels and the networks give us what we have told them with our viewing habits that we watch.

The only gripe here might be that they gave us more than we expected and even that should be no real surprise. Every year entertainment products have more sex, more violence, and bigger explosions than the previous year. None of this happens in a vacuum. Is there any reason to think it will be different in succeeding years?

The current clamor proves the point. Everyone who had any involvement with the Super Bowl is apologizing as if their lives depended on it. Of course, this public contrition is a perfect way to give the story sufficient staying power to sustain interest until the Grammy Awards show on CBS so that millions will tune into that to see what happens next. "

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Sorry couldn't resist the pun, but let's get real about what Janet Jackson and boy-toy Justin Timberlake performed at the Super Bowl half time show. It's called publicity and how far you can push the envelope. There's an old adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name right. And it looks like Janet and Justin at least did that part on cue...the only thing they have to think about now are the consequences, which in this jaded, over sexed, and media inundated marketing age means nothing will happen other than some investigation further putting them in the spotlight, anxious parents lamenting the loss of innocence and more sales for both so-called "artists". That's called carpe diem.


That's the percentage of the $1.3 trillion in U.S. outlays for healthcare that was devoted to administrative paperwork in 2003, according to Harvard Medical School, Public Citizen. And we didn't get any better treatment. Think about it as healthcare organizations deconstruct---think Tenet---and your premiums and out-of-pocket expenses increase.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Dodging the Bullet

Every consultant has a tale of clients and projects he/she wished they hadn't even considered. Life sucking projects where demand is great and understanding of basic and vital marketing issues is not. Where a lack of marketing focus and strategic planning is lacking and places the responsibility on the marketer at his/her own expense of time and frustration and loss of billable hours. Well, ladies and germs, me and the partners I work with, just dodged a bullet when ourh bid was too high with one of our clients. Who says that prayers are not answered?

This goes to the core of a discussion I had with a world traveling friend in December...that you price yourself at the value you perceive yourself, which is most likely undervalued. What is clear is that you set the market you want to go's about knowing the customers you want. Sometimes you have to price yourself out of one market in order to get to the market you want. That's called risk.

A Hiatus is Good for Marketers

After more than a month, it's time to take up the marketing driven perspective once again. The value of a hiatus is that you often don't realize how far into a rut you are until you look over the edge. Marketing is my passion but sometimes even passion needs an occasional rest.

What I learned during this down time was that many of the discussions I followed on the Internet and elsewhere just didn't ring as important. It felt like too much ado about nothing, and clearly indicated that I was on information overload. I understand that we marketers are always trying to rise above the collective noise, but sometimes we have to stop creating noise in order to hear. So as the noise dissipated from my consciousness, I began to rejoice in the basics of my life and what I do from reading a novel instead of the zillion marketing, strategy and business magazines and blogs I read, to working on my UCLA class so that I could give more to my students.

I also concentrated more on the basic issues of my clients and students and found that what works more than anything else in marketing is the one-to-one contact that sparks a creative approach based on mutual communication and respect. I also worked on business development and making contacts...networking is the lilfeline of what we do.

So as I nudge my way back to the world, let me ask you this. Do you care if we had a nanosecond view of Janet Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl halftime show? Yep, life is back to normal.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Super Bowl and Life

Here we are just a couple of hours away from the orgasmic football game of the year...a day truly dedicated to marketing at its highest and lowest. And the day I begin blogging again after a hiatus brought on by serious computer problems. I have had a chance to reflect upon marketing, my clients, what's important and what's not even more when the Internet went dark for me for several days.

I'll reflect upon that time and will be back on the marketing watch starting tomorrow. Enjoy the game....and the ads. Alain