Tuesday, October 26, 2004

On The Road, Again

Won't be back until next week. Have a great marketing week! Alain

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Yes, You Are A Brand!

Branding. Everyone in all industries are talking about branding as if it had just been discovered and as the latest marketing concept du jour. Seminars abound on the subject. The current marketing gurus write books on how to brand, etc. Somewhere in all the tumult and excitement to get on board, people seem to have forgotten that if their doors and websites are open for business then they are and have always been a brand.

So don't let all the fancy, shmancy marketing MBA jargon on branding make you anxious about your business. And don't get giddy with anticipation of exponential growth and success if you accept what some Fortune 500 companies are doing to enhance their brands. Chances are what they're doing doesn't even apply to what you do. Why? Because each situation is unique and your marketplace, your product, your service, your industry is something that is all your own. It's also about scaleability (there's a nouveau piece of jargon for you!) because one size doesn't fit all, especially when you consider the fact that more than 80% of businesses in this country have 20 or less employees. Generalities touted in books and seminars---and yes, even blogs---are just that.

Does that mean that there are no kernels of wisdom you can take from all this attention to branding? No. But take them in context of your particular situation. Let this information stir your brain power to be better at what you do, to create the customer experience they've told you they want, to simply bring heart back into your business. The object of all these tomes, blogs, seminars and the like is to make you think more critically about how to make your business work better. But a panacea for all your ills? I think not.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Southern California Soggy Afternoon Thoughts

We are finally getting some rain here in paradise---good for fire fighters, but bad for the areas already denuded by last season's fires. So grabbing notes and articles I've saved. Bear with me.

Statistics that can scare you: America will spend an estimated $1.8 trillion on healthcare this year and $3.4 trillion by 2013. All that spending and we still have an incredibly broken system.

Statistics that give you food for thought: Women age 18-34 will spend $36 billion on apparel this year. Equally compelling is that the size of the U.S. online apparel market is $11.7 billion.

What do the sins of lust, greed, pride, sloth, envy, wrath and gluttony have to do with selling a car? Look at the 2005 Jaguar XJ Series insert in your mainstream magazines and you'll see how not buying one would be, well, a sin.

The tupperwaring of America is back. A few weeks ago Mrs. marketingdriven.com went to a Southern Living "party" and, of course, came back with must-have home goods. It's all the rage here in suburbia. And it keys to what is so true in our fast-paced world, people want experiences especially when they're buying stuff. We've become such a commoditized world that anything that makes a semi-personal impression is bound to be a success. Read the November 1st issue of Forbes about "The Party That Crashed Retailing" about everything from sex toys to scrapbooks being sold in your neighbor's living room. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

A bientot....Alain

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Absolute Must Site

Go to www.gapingvoid.com. Hugh MacLeod's world view places the world on an even keel for the first time in many a moon. His cartoons drawn on business cards hit the heart and soul and says what we all think but don't say. Excellent.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Marketing Driving Strategy

It is a marketer's dream to be the driving force of the business strategy. In healthcare I often see separate departments for business development, PR, and marketing. None of it makes sense as isn't the idea of marketing to build business? Another duh!

So this morning's searchcrm.com newsletter was heart warming and straight to the point: HP lets marketing direct strategy. The article quotes the HP marketing chief, Mike Winkler: "When you get to the point of marketing running strategy, then you're on your way to being a customer-driven enterprise."

Furthermore the article stated, "Winkler cited a Gartner study that suggests that by 2007, companies that have devoted 50% of their time to customer-centric marketing approaches will receive a 30% greater ROI than their peers. In part, customer-centric marketing means looking beyond an organization's market share and at different market segments a company can own."
Take that into your boss and let's see the reaction. The issue with marketing has always been who drives strategy and how does a customer-centric organization become that way. At least at HP they are on the right track. I suggest you read this.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Power of Knowing Your Audience

Knowing where to get your message in front of your targeted audience is as important as the message. An example is a religious-based independent film "Woman Thou Art Loosed" about a woman who struggles with a legacy abuse, poverty and addiction. It was first shown in August in Atlanta at the Bronner Brothers Atlanta Hair Show---claiming to the world's largest showcasing the latest African American hair products---where 60,00 hairstylists and fashion folks go to mingle, see new products and do all the other things we all do at conferences and trade shows.

Bishop T.D. Jakes, who stars in the film and wrote a self-help book on which the film is based, said it best, "We went after beauticians and the hair-care product people because I understand the African American community. I understand that everybody gets their hair done. And the barbershop and the beauty shop are hubs of conversation--pulse points in our community."
Bishop Jakes and his crew handed out flyers to the crowd inviting them to the free showing, eventually attracting 500 people on consecutive evenings. The word-of-mouth that came from this was strong as the attendees farmed out over the country to talk about it. It eventually trickled to the rest of the faith-based community, to elected officials, academics, radio stations and the rest is history. The film cost less than $2 million to make and grossed $2.35 million on its opening weekend October 1-3, showing in just 408 theaters. In its second weekend it grossed $1.1 million while adding 24 more theaters. So it goes.

The lesson here is that once you know how to position your product or service before the right audience, it doesn't necessarily take fancy marketing to get to the marketplace. Independent films have been making serious inroads on the major film shops because they are just that, independent and not beholden to formulas that are set in stone. Creativity is what ultimately drives these film makers, but smart marketing and buzz is what makes them pop up on the cultural landscape. It's guerrilla marketing at its best.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Halloween: A Lesson For Marketers

marketingdriven.com jr. and I went for a long walk last evening and we noticed so many Halloween-decorated houses. My neighbors are going gaga on this, far more houses with orange pumpkin lights and ghosts than there are Christmas lights. Now instead of going out in the car to see the lights during the holidays, we're going to start going out to see the hobgoblins dancing in people's front yards.

An interesting article in this morning's LA Times about how Halloween sales will be up 5.4% versus 4.5% for Christmas. Now you have to put that into perspective, but still it's a $3 billion dollar business. In Santa Fe Springs, a shapeless city on the way to LA, the Halloween Club is open all year. And it's not necessarily the kids who are buying this stuff, it's the adults. The article goes on to say that 60% of American celebrate the "holiday" and of that 56% wear costumes. Amazing social trend that demonstrates how marketers have had their hand in this.

As one person interviewed for this article said, adults dress up to "reclaim a portion of our childhood, if just for a few hours." The lesson for us marketers is that people crave for something unusual to experience, whether a faux holiday or a new car. Our customers are starving for value that will take them away from the proverbial rat race. Even if only for a few hours. So look at what your business is about, it may be humdrum or less than exciting, but that doesn't mean you can't make it a memorable experience. Think of all the "branding" we marketer always tout and look to achieve. Why do we evangelize about it? It's because there are too damn many choices, many of them nominal in incremental value in comparison to the other brands, and we are seeking the different, the exotic, the solid experience no matter if we're buying steel or selling Disneyland.

If we looked at what we do and how we do it with the eyes of our children during Halloween, it's not wonder more adults want to slip away for a bit into another world. As marketers we should give them that. Boo!

Great American Love Story

Mont Blanc pens have always set a standard for fine writing instruments, even in this age of electronic writing. Yours truly loves fine pens and owns a couple of these. So an article in the LA Times caught my eye a few days ago about a promotion that the company is doing with a $150,000 diamond-encrusted pen. Mont Blanc is trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by having a leather bound blank book travel from exclusive store to exclusive store, inviting the public to come add a few lines in a work-in-progress participatory novel.

The experimental approach began in New York in March with the first entry by Candace Bushnell of "Sex and the City" fame. In LA, it was Jackie Collins who penned a few sentences in Beverly Hills. The book is 2-foot tall and is going to San Francisco next.

As with all marketing stories, this one is about differentiation. How do I stand out and get people to notice my products or services? Mont Blanc has done well for itself. The ink on the Jackie Collins write-in in the haute district of LaLa Land was worth thousands. If you want to stand out, first have a good product, then have a great publicist.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Curbside Service

Last night I saw an ad from Outback Steakhouse touting the new curbside service. It's an enhancement to take out except this way you don't even have to leave your car to pick up the goods, you park at a designated spot at the restaurant and they bring your order out to you. Another restaurant in our area, Johnny Carino's, also does that. What it really points out is that in this busy, car-centric world you have to cater to your customers in ways that address their unique needs. Here in car crazy California, this is sure to take off.

The lesson here is that you go where the customers are. How well are you differentiating your business by looking at all the ways your customers can access you? For example, there is a chiropractor in town who does not open until noon and works until 9 p.m. in order to accommodate commuters. His business is booming because over two-thirds of our residents commute to San Diego, Orange County or Los Angeles and they're on the road early in the morning and come home late at night. The chiropractor understands that you have to go where the customer is. It's like when they asked famous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, he replied, "That's where the money is."

Friday, October 08, 2004

New Concept of Team Leadership?

I do talk quite a bit about leadership on this blog because it's been my experience that this is what distinguishes a marketing driven company from the others. A fascinating article in the Wharton newsletter regarding a study of leadership and teamwork in a trauma unit in Baltimore, Maryland that treats more than 7,000 trauma patients per year. The article refers to a paper by Wharton management professor Katherine J. Klein titled, "A Leadership System for Emergency Action Teams: Rigid Hierarchy and Dynamic Flexibility."

What's key to professor Klein's observations is in the paper title and even though there is a rigid hierarchy of who does what to whom and directs the process, the dynamic flexibility part is that "...individual leaders come and go but the the leadership positions remain..." Furthermore, she equates the process this way, "Leadership...seems to be a baton, whose possession is controlled by the most senior members of the hierarchy. These individuals may assume control, taking possession of the baton, at any time. Yet, often they relinquish possession of the baton to those lower in the hierarchy." Much of this depends on the patient's status, the skills needed at that time, etc. Therefore, "In the trauma unit, leadership is...a system, or dance, of moving parts."

That really struck a chord to me from the marketing point of view. I love the "dance of moving parts" because isn't that what business is essentially all about? And how often in business do we let each member of the business cotillion fill their dance card according to what they do best and according to the situation? What it takes is a strong leader who leaves the ego at the door and allows those around him/her to do what they do well to meet the emergent situation.

I can remember many such instances in my career, the earliest one being as an air evac medic in Vietnam in 1967-68. There would be times when we'd land to pick up a load of badly wounded soldiers to have the aircraft commander ask me as the medical crew chief, the conditions of the patients in my team's care in order to be able to judge best how to get us out of the airstrip---often a dirt field full of ruts. Would it be a straight up deal or a more smooth takeoff, depending on having enough runway and if we were under fire. At that point in the operation, I was handed the baton and gave my pilot the medical situation and he would do his part, still always in control as the aircraft commander, but relinquishing for that one moment the baton so that we could work as a team to get those guys out of the battlefield and to vital care in the safest possible manner without adding to their trauma. I hadn't looked at it that way until I read this article. Please forgive a war story, but those pilots were incredibly talented and empathetic human beings who have my admiration to this day.

But there are many instances of this leadership behavior on a daily basis at many enlightened businesses. Notice I use the word enlightened. I remember a media crisis in 1993 at a small hospital where I was director of marketing and where a nurse had been shot at in our nursery, with four shots fired, missing all the babies and the nurse, the nurse being chased by her attacker---the jilted woman in a love triangle---and finally disarmed in the emergency room which had been surrounded by SWAT officers. You can bet that the media, both local, regional and national was right at our doorstep. At that point the CEO froze and wanted to issue no comments. The COO and I convinced her that we have to talk and manage the situation. When she agreed to our entreaties, the COO turned to me and said, "Tell me what to do." That was passing the baton to me to help manage this and we were able to mitigate what could have been bad press into a positive for us as the facility. (The shooter was disarmed by one of our nurses who talked her down from her rage and subsequently arrested. She was eventually convicted and is still incarcerated.)

I'm sure that many of you can come up with other examples. They are probably more subtle and you probably have to learn how to discern these situations as well as how to make them learning experiences for you and your organization. The lesson here is that marketing is about leadership and each one of us is armed with a skill set that needs to be in the lead at certain points in the business process. How one gets to that point really depends on the corporate culture and how well you as a marketer have prepared that culture for you to lead when it's appropriate. What it really means is that you have to own your process and educate others to recognize that so that you can be impactful.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

So You Want To Be An Entrepeneur

Log on here to see the 10 traits an entrepeneur needs to succeed. It's from BusinessWeek: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/oct2004/sb2004104_2164_sb010.htm Besides the traits they list, it also helps to be resilient. I know that when I was made redundant by my old firm, giving up the big VP title, etc. that it was the best thing to have happened to me. So maybe another trait is to be lucky enough to be laid off so that you have to reinvent yourself.

Kudos To USPS

Our part of California paradise is growing so fast that the postal service cannot keep up with demand for service, which means that when you have to mail a package or do any transactions there the lines are quite long. I dreaded going there yesterday but when I arrived and saw the usual lines, I was going to not even bother until I spied a new machine which allows you to weigh your package or letter, punch in the zip code, get the exact postage and pay with a credit card. Took about one minute and I was out the door.

The lesson here is that competition has forced USPS into being creative and innovative in how they bring value to their customers. The ads they've been running on television have also been quite instructive as to their approach to solving customer problems. If USPS can do it---in the past a stodgy, non-functioning entity---any business can. It all boils down to talking with customers and realizing that you can never rest as the competition in the rear view mirror is nearer than you think.


Great stuff on innovation in the BusinessWeek 75th Anniversary Issue, October 11th. I highly recommend you read it as it is a thoughtful and records how technology and new ideas are truly changing our world.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Another Creative Marketer

Just read about Scott, a marketer out of St. Louis, who has been wearing a name tag for the past 1435 days. He's been cited in numerous newspapers and CNN as an expert on name tags and he wears a name tage each day to generate conversations. Look him up @ www.hellomynameisscott.com. There's always more than one way to get the attention you want in order to build business and Scott has cornered his approach. Kudos.

What's In Your Wallet?

The guys who market Capital One credit cards are marketing driven if only in their persistence. They must spend a fortune in direct mailing and it must work given the volume of mail the marektingdriven.coms receive, even my erstwhile college senior with what I suspect should be a negative credit history. All to say that today came another deluge, one of an average of three a week I receive, now with their campaign of "Win your own private island." No crowds, no tourists, no hassles---and I suppose no direct mail from Capital One---is the come on. It brings to mind what Seth Godin talked about in his seminal book Permission Marketing so long ago, that interruptions don't win customers they simply interrupt their lives. It's interesting to see this campaign from a company that interrupts everyone's life on television with their "No hassle" promise as well as stuffs our mailboxes full. Such a paradox to key on the fact that this modern age is indeed stressful with so many marketers trying to grab a piece of our wallets. There's nothing wrong with letting the world know what you're about, but enough with the deluge. I say we ship all the Capital One marketing people and wipe the location off the maps. Then there would be peace at last in our times.

Some Thoughts On Turnarounds
An interesting interview in the October 4th issue of Fortune with Joe Galli, the current CEO of Newell Rubbermaid, who has missed most of his three-year financial targets. Apparently turning around this big organization has been a lot tougher than he thought. I pass on this quote from Mr. Galli because it's something that I have observed and experienced: "Resist the temptation to be optimistic until you learn how much effort is required. The toughest thing was establishing expectations, then letting people down." How so very true.

Now, How About Those Chinese?
Those of us who have lived in Europe and traveled around the world know that the price of gasoline is still a bargain in this country in spite of the price shock we are currently experiencing here. That's why the article in the October 4th issue of Fortune with the lead story Inside The New China is so important to read, especially for us marketers since it's not only the turmoil in the Middle East that are driving prices sky high, it's also demand from China and India and other Asian tigers scratching at the world's commodity door. In one section called What China Eats and Drinks and...the consumption of the worlds commodities is mind boggling. They consume 50.8% of the world's pork, 34.8% of the cigarettes, 7.7% of the oil, 26.9% of the finished steel, 19.1% of the ice cream, and the list goes on. All to say that this insatiable giant is no longer the Middle Kingdom, it will soon be the Marketing Kingdom. I remember not so long ago when we were talking about Japan, Inc. Now it's China, Inc. Marketers cast your eyes further than your own horizon and read your fortune cookie well: The marketing sun rises in the East.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Two Recommendations

CIO magazine has recently published a book of essays on leadership written by its columnists. While it's written for CIOs, the essays are cogent and applicable to all of us. I highly recommend you read it.

I also recommend you start reading CMO magazine, put out by the same folks that publish CIO. It's a good, thoughtful read for us marketers who sometimes feel like the lonely Maytag repairman. Here's this month's issue. Go get it.

Monday, October 04, 2004

TV Bites The Dust?

Well, maybe not yet but it's clear that as more people take to the Internet the less they watch tv, which my mother told me once would rot my brain. An interesting report from the University of Southern California Annenberg School you should read about people and their relationship with the web. As marketers and communicators, we need to make sure we know what's going on out there and our ability to use the tools for our craft. Look for it here:


On That Same Vein

Interesting article about blogs and their value for PR and communicators. The revolution we so desperately wanted in the 60s and 70s didn't quite turn out the way we thought, but this revolution cannot be stopped. The web has changed everything for marketers, even old farts like me who welcome the change and the opportunity to remain on the so-called cutting edge. In a very real sense to blog is to live in the entire world. Read this article @:


Sometimes It Just Seems That Way!

Life Redux

Life magazine, the one magazine that graced our coffee table in the 50s and 60s as a kid, is back. I got the first issue as an insert in one of the local coastal newspapers I read. I don't know if it's going to be a hit or if it will replace Parade in your Sunday paper, but it's a bit of nostalgia for me...and it brings to mind that brands can also rise like the Phoenix. Does this mean that TWA will soon mark its rebirth as a low-cost airline?

A colleague and I are looking at resilience as a key leadership factor. What's your definition of resilience? The proverbial water off a duck's back or? Let me know at alain@marketingdriven.com.

And speaking of resilience, there's an excellent article in the October 4th issue of Newsweek about Michael O'Leary who runs Ryanair, an incredibly successful low-cost airline. His attitude proves that being resilient also means being flexible, adaptable and you guessed it, hard skinned. That's the only way he could compete. I mean how does someone give seats away and still makes a profit when you want to buy a soda or a sandwich and who knows what else. Entrepeneurs should learn from him that sometimes outrageous is good when you're challenging the current brand powers. Even complaints turn him on because people are talking about his company. Read the article.

Marketing Is Process

And process is about details, the really hard part of marketing. I've just returned from a week on the Central Coast of California where the marketingdriven.coms have been regular visitors for years. One place where we always stay is the White Water Inn in Cambria, a bucolic little village not far from Hearst Castle. WW Inn is a great place where the surf sounds massage you to blissful sleep. It only has 17 rooms, all with fireplaces, a continental breakfast delivered punctually to your door and warm friendly people. There are a lot of places on Moonstone Beach where the inn is and so differentiation is key. Each hotel/inn has its own loyal clientele. We prefer WW Inn because it is so personal and so in dicussing marketing as a process of details, here's a momento from our visit last week that exemplifies this best.