Wednesday, April 28, 2004

$65

In the May 3rd issue of BusinessWeek this stat was given as the price that businesses eager to sell their products to newlyweds pay the city of San Francisco for a list of recently married gay couples. While some people see gay marriages as wrong, marketers see potential markets.

Children's Marketing In Focus

Read a review of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, by Susan Linn in the Wall Street Journal of April 23rd. I am going to get this book since it chronicles how kids are constantly marketed to, as I relate in this blog on all the marketing marketingdriven.com Jr. gets. I love this quote from her book: "The explosion of marketing aimed at kids today is precisely targeted, refined by scientific method, and honed by child psychologists---in short, it is more pervasive and intrusive than ever before." Amen. What are your kids watching?

Friday, April 23, 2004

Beer Thoughts

I don't know much about the South Beach Diet, but I do know quite a bit about beer as I make it a point wherever I travel to sample the local brew. This morning in the LA Times there is a full page, color ad from Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser, Michelob, etc) with picture of an invitingly frosty glass of beer touting that it's okay to drink beer on the South Coast Diet regardless what the diet says about maltose in the beer not being good for the diet. Apparently, according to the ad, "...independent testing shows that beer does not contain maltose. So go ahead and enjoy a beer, even when you're watching your carbs." I don't know maltose from fructose but I found this intriguing that a major brewer would feel compelled to encourage beer drinkers to drink beer even while on a diet. This was not a cheap ad and I'm sure it was a national placement. Goes to show you how something popular can impact a product. It makes me think about all the unwitting effects there are out there that impact marketing efforts.

As for me, I think I'll take the ad's advice and go for a cool one down in the employee lounge at marketingdriven.com world headquarters. We're an equal opportunity tasting company.

Cash For Less

Yep, you guessed it, this is another Wal-Mart story. Seems that the giant has now gone into cashing check for those who don't have checking accounts taking business away from the local liquor store or ethnic grocery store that have always provide this service. And of course they do it for less, cutting into Mom & Pop places that are marginal anyway. If there's a lesson here is that the competition you face may come from a source you never expected. But with Wal-Mart anything is possible.

The lesson here is to constantly look over your shoulders and stay ahead, even if it's Wal-Mart.

Have a great weekend! Alain

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Gmail & Other Thoughts

1. Google Notes: So Google is now challenging Microsoft for the email business....just signed up for Gmail from Google and although I don't know how to use it yet, it's good to check out new ideas as they come out. I hope that Gmail doesn't become a G String, where there is a hint of what's to come but you never actually see it.

2. Free Prize Inside, a new book by Seth Godin just arrived and I already see stuff I'm going to use in my class and in my workshops....just skimming and saw this quote that stirs the cockles of my heart (whatever those are): in a mini-chapter titled "It's All Marketing, Because the Product or the Service Is the Marketing" Seth says, "Marketing is no longer a separate division. It's the whole company." Right on. And it's a duh to those who have heard me expound on this very same notion. I am glad to see that this concept is continuing to come to the forefront of business thinking because it is costing many companies lots of money doing stupid things or by being unfocused on what is really happening in the world. I'll keep you posted as I read this.

3. From The Telling It Like It Is Department comes word--albeit a few days late from the NY Times I bought on April 4th---that the US and it's Coalition of the Willing have hired a public relations, Bell Pottinger, to help promote democracy in Iraq. Now that's an assignment that I would not want to take. Do you think it's a bit late at this stage of the game? As a marketer, I am intrigued on how you'd do something like that. Good luck especially in the Falloujah and Najaf markets, guys.

4. From The It Was Bound To Happen Department comes word that in Tennessee, parents are urging legislators to pass a law against what is called "Dirty Driving" where people in one car are watching an X-rated video and the people in the car next to them, especially children, are exposed to it. Truly amazing what the modern world is showing us about excess. And you can blame marketers for some of that.

On the work front, I continue to explore motivation and the impact on marketing. I can be as enthusiastic as I usually am when I talk about marketing a client, but the execution is often short-circuited due to a lack of interested or motivated folks to make it happen. More on that as the research widens.

Monday, April 19, 2004

When More Is Less

I'm plugging a book about the cornucopia of stuff we have at hand in this country---at least for most of us. The book is called The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, by Barry Schwartz from Ecco Press. I bring this book up because the premise is that we have so damn many choices on everything that it creates anxiety and befuddlement as to what to chose. I believe that the ultimate paradox is that brands are actually more important as brands proliferate because they need to stand out even more from the crowd in order to remain strong and in favor. Just think of the choices you have to make when you go grocery shopping. Do we really need a zillion cereal brands or soap brands? Many brands are only incrementally different so that's why a major brand has to make sure it remains dominant....besides, brands allow us to make a decision and move on. Chances are you use Tide because your parents did and so forth.

But it's also about creating new customers and that brings to mind a practice of introducing brands to young marrieds as the brand choices they make as a couple will probably carry them throughout their lives. Marketers know that. But back to the More is Less concept. Don't we really have enough of everything and does everything have to be a brand? The so-called art of branding is now bandied about by marketers and our gurus. Even I talk about it in my classes, but what I think we're really talking about is differentiation. What makes you unique? What will appeal to your target audience? How effective is your product or service? All of those are branding questions in a sense and things that businesses have asked themselves since time immemorial. But most of all what we should be asking is, do we really need another "brand" of whatever product we are charged with marketing? Will this really change the world as we know it?

As a marketer I have to ask how much more stuff can we sell? How much more excess can there be before the expectations of the next generation exceed what we can and should produce? We are now living in an age of entitlement and we marketers are complicit in its beginning and nurturance. All you have to do is watch children's television and you can see this at work....we are creating a generation of wanters and that's scary. Everything is up for sale including space on my child's school menu. So I mention the book as another view of what is going on and I see the excess as the fruits of our society, and sadly as very effective marketing. Goodnight.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Time to Think

During my dinner with the CEO last night, we discussed not only optimism but also how to solve problems. Her lament was that she had entirely too many fires to put out since she is in a turn around mode. Once one fire is out, another pops up from the embers of the last one and so it goes, making it very hard to spend any "quality time" thinking about more strategic and long-term issues basic to a solid business foundation. I advised her to calendar at least 30 minutes per day where she cannot be disturbed so that she can just think. I do that each day. So this morning's Fast Company email struck a chord. Let me share it with you because it's such an important component of sound planning and marketing. Also, when you think about it, having a pause in the chaos of the day gives one optimism that things will get better because it allows you to focus on what has been accomplished as well as letting you focus on the most pressing issues that will have significant impact in a positive manner. We all need time away....even if it's only a 30 minute break.

Here's the Fast Company article:

Founder
Bruce Mau Design Inc.
Design Studio
Toronto, Ontario

To invent anything, you have to be removed from the world. In order to have the capacity, the liberty, to imagine something better, you need to step outside of it for a while.

My advice is to encourage invention and ideas, and then edit. It's about proliferation and promiscuity on the one hand--and then later, rigorous, tough-minded editing. Dean Kamen, the inventor, calls the process "kissing frogs." You might make 100 things and turn one of them into a prince.

What's truly sane about that approach is that the frog that you make today doesn't have to be beautiful. There's no need to get hung up on a "good idea." Later on, the process of choosing--making sure a good idea doesn't get lost--becomes largely intuitive. In my experience, it has to be.

But product invention isn't just about the product. It's also about the relationship, the flow, the information that surrounds that product. If you say that the actual object is the thing, then you're missing the point of what it means to invent in today's world.

It's true that to think about a new product, you first have to consider it on its own. But not long after, you have to force yourself to do a mental flip and understand that it's really not discrete at all. For example, car manufacturers don't want to sell you a car. They want to sell you 10 cars. And so, they're going to sell you the relationship, the communication, the experience of that car. The car, the product, is part of a bigger flow. The real challenge for an inventor is to understand how it fits into the larger context.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Optimism

What I've always looked for in people I've interviewed for positions or for project work is optimism. I had dinner tonight with a hospital CEO and we discussed that very attribute in terms of people thinking the proverbial glass is either half full or half empty. That's what makes a real difference in marketing: Optimism...defined as having a sense of wonder that all will work out and that the possibilities are endless no matter what's handed to you. In other words, a correct attitude. Doesn't it always come to that whether you're dealing with your kids, or staff or customers? It's attitude with power. It's about giving hope and that is especially vital in a healthcare setting.

Ultimately, marketing is about people and they're the ones that are either going to make your company successful or not. Off to bed.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Flying The Friendly Skies At Last & Other Thoughts About Work

For our trip to New York City, the marketingdriven.coms flew Jet Blue---it was a good flying experience considering the state of commercial aviation service these days. The service was excellent, the seats are comfortable leather and there is Directv for you to watch your favorite programs on your individual screen. There are no pre-fab meals to digest and they seem to actually care that you fly with them. Imagine that. As marketingdriven.com Jr. said as he watched Nickelodeon at 35,000 feet, "Sweet." This journey to the East came at a crucial time in my professional life as I ponder even more closely the nature of work, the purpose of work and the meaning of work in our lives, especially as it affects service marketing. And the Jet Blue experience illuminates that well.

I am currently working on a workshop for a major healthcare client to talk about marketing and business development to case managers who are essentially sales and marketing folks. My mandate from my client is to inspire them and share options and tools with them about their work so that they can begin to find their passion again. Wow! The loss of passion, purpose and focus is what I am finding other places as well as my consultancy grows. It brings me back to the marketing driven philosophy, which is to have the right people in the right job at the right time and with the right motivation---very zen.

While it's obvious that one workshop will probably not change many people---and the client knows that----and it's not a revival meeting on a hot August evening in the big tent outside of town---but he is committed to the beginning of something to stimulate the creative juices in his region. He and his staff have rightly diagnosed the lack of passion as a key component to their malaise. Which takes me back to Jet Blue.

Most the staff we encountered at Jet Blue performed as if they actually liked what they're doing. So I ask you, why should I find that so refreshing when it should be a norm? Obviously a rhetorical question because we all know in our hearts that for many people, work is not a place they particularly want to be. We work for many reasons and, sadly, usually the wrong ones. We need the insurance, the 401k, the extra income, whatever. That's the biggest challenge marketers face because ultimately it is the performance of the people---whether in sales or providing a service and all points in between---where the marketing power truly lies. And to perform in a marketing driven way takes people who believe, who are engaged, who are passionate about what they do and whose ethics include hard work, persistence and creative problem solving. It's about people actually liking people for heaven's sake!

So while a marketer can know all about direct mail strategies and ad copy and the like, it's often for naught if you can't deliver the goods. That's why marketing is far more than ads or promotions, it's about having passionate people doing what they want to be doing and not because they have to. Think about the businesses you've frequented where that was present and how it made you feel. Now go do it in your own shop.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Attention Deficit

No wonder we parents need to be in charge of how much TV viewing as a recent report indicates that too much TV can lead to Attention Deficit. Using TV as a babysitter is certainly something that I have been guilty of and the report says that while it may not be content that drives this potential risk, but it's the "unrealistically, fast-paced visual images, typical of most TV programming, may alter normal brain development." Zikes, that is scary since apparently the damage will not show itself until your child is 7...which is exactly the age of marketingdriven.com jr. Stay tuned as I watch for the danger signs. In the meantime, monitor how much your kids watch as this is a case of less is more.

Dragged Kicking and Screaming

An article I brought home from the NY Times when I visited New York City last week regarding how hospitals resist computerized patient care is indicative of the conservative and risk averse nature of the healthcare industry. A case in point is Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles where they spent millions and then scrapped it mostly because the physicians were up in arms against it.

It's ironic because the general public thinks that medicine is in the forefront of innovation---true in many ways---but the practitioners are often set in the mud when it comes to adopting new ways of working. With the increase use of the Internet you'd think physicians would want everything new to manage patients but costs and uncertainty as to their status in the social and financial hierarchy has cast doubts in their minds and so, no sir, not going to change. While this is not exclusive to healthcare, it certainly points out the problems we have in shifting mindsets, whether in how we process information or simply ship out an order, change is constant and resistance is a natural byproduct of it.

More on this later. Wanted to get stuff out before my constituents send me more nasty emails for being so quiet for such a long period.