Friday, December 31, 2004

Thought For The Day

As we move into 2005 and as I complete my annual business plan and personal goals, this quote from H. Jackson Brown, Jr. seems a good starting point to ponder what we are about:

"You may be fortunate and make a lot of money.
But be sure your work involves something that enriches
your spirit as well as your bank account."

Have a safe, thoughtful and forward looking New Year!



Wednesday, December 29, 2004

It Takes A Marketer

One of my students for the class starting January 8th got his first assignment in and has already read the text, Harry Beckwith's book Selling The Invisible. This is a first! And of course the student is also a marketer. I am impressed but not surprised. It brings to mind the lesson that to get ahead and stay ahead you have to have passion and be focused on the prize. Kudos to Scott who clearly demonstrated both not only in his essay, but also in his delivery. I'm looking forward to sharing some time with him.

Great Quote For The New Year

"One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world---make the most of one's best."

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969 American Theologian)

Thanks to Becky Barney-Villano, another marketing friend for this one.

Asking Too Much of Our Customers

I am a proponent of customer feedback in any form from surveys and the like since I believe that marketing is about having a conversation with the world and conversations are a two-way road...but lately I've been pondering if we're asking too much of our customers? I mean after all being customer-centric is great and that's really where all business through the ages has been, but aren't we supposed to know what our business is about? And isn't business and marketing really an ingrained understanding and philosophy that everything is connected to make the product/service what is needed and wanted in the marketplace in the first place? And aren't we supposed to be smart enough to focus on the conversation with our customers and the delivery of our promise so that good enough isn't? Sometimes I feel like we're floundering trying to guess every nano thought and nuance that our customers may have about our business from MRI scans to two-way windows in retail outlet laboratories to RFID. I mean don't we also buy stuff because we don't know why it's just what we do? Are we ever going to leave anything to mystery?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Catching Up

Going through the blog pile that I amass over the course of my days:

  1. When Ahnold, our illustrious leader of Paradise, went to Japan in November a quote from him struck my fancy: "Market, market, market. This is what I know how to do, and I know it pays off." Indeed.
  2. I don't know how Lionel trains did this Christmas, but it wasn't for lack of help from the movie Polar Express. While the movie did poorly, Lionel---which filed for bankruptcy protection after 104 years---couldn't keep up with the demand. Isn't there supposed to be a silver lining in those clouds? I remember fondly playing at a friend's house in Virginia and the Lionel trains he had. That's what being kid is all about. Hope the marketing push from a bad movie helps them out.
  3. Local San Diego Jack in the Box has a 32% increase in profits. After a long struggle it's good to see Mr. Box doing so well. The Ultimate Cheese Burger may be a cardiologist's nightmare but on a rainy night when you're hungry....well, you get the drift.
  4. What distinguishes an homogenized mall music shop and a local one with grit? Knowledge and a passion for the music, no matter how obscure or nonsensical it can be to an aging boomer like me. If there's ever a business where knowledge of the product influences a purchase, it's the music clerk. An article in the December 9th LA Times Calendar section profiled these ultimate sales people in a thoughtful article. It's about the people who touch the customers. Good read.
  5. We stayed at the Grand Sheraton in Sacramento last weekend and I have to say the service and the ambiance was stellar. I took their mission statement that is prominent in each room: "One Voice. One Vision. We succeed only when we meet and exceed the expectations of our customers....." I give them credit. They exceeded mine so that's one mission statement that actually is real. Be still my heart.
  6. I'm reading that luxury items were big this Christmas especially for the teens in LA who bought Prada handbags and Dior sunglasses, etc. If there's stumble in the economy you can't prove it where I live.
  7. You can't blame Ahnold on this one: Apparently Hummer Eau de Toilette Spray was released this fall and zoomed into the top-20 of men's fragrances. It's supposed to be very masculine. Nobody I know uses any of this stuff. Imust be out of the loop.
  8. Zipcar. No, it's not another cologne it's a car-sharing service for college students who find it difficult to rent cars since most are under 25. Also, since parking is limited in many colleges and universities, it's a hit especially between midnight and 5 a.m. Let your imagination work here, folks. But it shows that you have to observe your environment in order to develop a successful business. Marketing at its best.
  9. Thank God The Apprentice is over. But in one of our local high schools, The Donald was assigned watching to "show the real world of business." Is business really like that? And it's coming back for a third season?
  10. Tanks for the memory is not what Bob Hope sang, but in Sherman, Texas you can take your whole management team for some rough and ready bonding with a tank, a lot of mud and allegedly walk away feeling like you've learned more about your fellow participants. I can speak from experience that a battle situation can be seared into your consciousness and perhaps give you a scary ride, but being a better manager?
Only partly through my pile, but off for the night.

Tsunami

It almost seems trite to speak of marketing when the tsunami that has devastated Southeast Asia is still taking an awful toll. If you want to stay in touch with this tragedy go to this to the tsunamihelp blog.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Baghdad by the Bay



Going to "Baghdad by the Bay" as Herb Caen, the long time columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, used to call that fog magnet of a city. It's the only Baghdad I'm really interested in visting! marketingdriven.jr and "She Who Must Be Obeyed" are going to ride cable cars and enjoy The City (as they like to refer to it up there) in Christmas dress. Cheers.


The Quality of The Team

That's what makes the difference in all endeavors. Case-in-point from this morning's client meeting in San Diego. The clinical team was eager, ready, new, excited, willing to take direction, willing to share expectations, awaiting assignments and totally stoked to be included in the marketing process. We all talk about teamwork and it doesn't happen often enough. There is a definite quality to a good team that is palpable in my experience. It's an energy flow and anticipation all wrapped up together. It's egos checked at the door so that all ideas are discussed. It's mutual respect and understanding where one's experise takes the lead and the other follows. It's keeping everyone in the loop and being accountable to the greater good. It's a lot of things that only you can define as a high functioning team...and when it happens, like this morning, it's is indeed sweet.

Why Mega Churches Are Marketing Phenoms

Dean H. Hamer has written a thoughtful book entitled "The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired Into Our Genes." Hamer is a behavioral geneticist a the National Cancer Institute, and this book is a follow-up to his 1998 book, "Living With Our Genes." What is interesting from a marketing point of view is that according to Hamer, we all have a so-called "God Gene" in our DNA, some more so than others. We access that gene, VMAT2, through transcendence of our "reality" through ritual, meditation, yoga, etc. And that, he says, is what mega churches have caught on to simply by creating an emotional aspect to their appeal for members. Through music, multi-media, less structured services, not talking in "God-speak" and letting the flow of the moment be a part of their services, among other tactics, they allow their worship to be "fun" so that the worshipers get into a spiritual frame of mind and thus "feel" God.

Obviously there are naysayers about Hamer's research and thesis, but it certainly merits looking into and understanding the power of marketing and how it impacts everything we do. If as Professor Gerald Zaltman of Harvard Business School states in his book "How Customers Think" that 95% of what we process in experiences takes place in the subconscious and that sensory and emotional components have more influence on how we perceive an experience, then no wonder the new churches who have let go of the traditional religiosity and structure, are indeed marketers par excellence in their quest for souls.

The key learning here is that experience does drive our decision process and marketers know that. Now your local church knows that, too, and that's why it's important to see what they do in terms of breaking the bonds of traditional approaches to get their message across and bring in the multitudes. If you want to see more in practice, just look at the evangelists on TV who are constantly using the medium to line heaven with souls and their coffers with gold.

Six Degrees

In this morning's LA Times was a brief article on Johnson & Johnson buying the stent maker Guidant. The six degrees part is that Guidant is the biggest employer in Temecula, the city adjacent to my piece of California's paradise, and employs over 2,700 people. Knowing how buy-outs can impact a local employment situation, the city fathers (& mothers?) are rightfully worried. Guidant has been a good corporate citizen very much involved in many local and southern California social agencies. Besides that they sink about $10 million in wages for the the local economy. This example points out that all business is local even if it's a major corporation. And what you read from Wall Street is also definitely about Main Street. I mean, while the Temecula Valley's wineries are becoming more renown, we need more the cash flow of companies like Guidant as well as the wine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

When Is "Disloyalty" Really Loyalty?

Answer: When it properly and rightfully challenges the organization's status quo to support its ideals and mission and improve it.

Case-in-point: In this morning's LA Times an article about a UN doctor whose contract was not renewed because of a book he wrote with two other colleagues and published in June. The book highlights sexual exploitations by UN "Peace Keepers" and other atrocities such as genocide in Rwanda, etc. It was, obviously, not complimentary to the UN and its missions around the world. Apparently, the powers-that-be in UN management are not too happy with Dr. Andrew Thomson even though he's been a faithful trooper for them for the past 12 years and he's been fired, or better yet his contract has not been renewed and other In-Human Resources shenanigans. It's not a performance issue here, it's a truth issue. So it goes.

What struck me about the article is that it is sometimes difficult to ferret out the truth when an employee rails against management---but it's been my experience that there is usually much truth spilled when a demonstrated professional with a good record goes out and tells the Emperor he has no clothes, especially with such an organization as the UN, which is sure to add more fodder to the anti-UN fires.

Dr. Thomson's final quote is worth pondering: "I wrote from shame and anger that those ideals were not what I saw in the field, in the hope that we could learn and improve. Sometimes loyalty means being loyal to your organization and its ideals, even against its management." Amen!

Obviously there are many sides to this story, but I am heartened about Dr. Thomson's courage and not surprised that he will no longer work for the UN. Is Kofi next? This case proves that employee relations and their perceived ability to effect change in their organizations, especially after they've invested so much time to it, is as much about marketing as it is about HR or organizational development. Your people are your assets. Too bad so many companies don't think that way. When you don't you get a book like "Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell On Earth." Should be a page turner.

Vive la France, Part Deux

The French just opened the world's tallest bridge....maybe I should take back my earliest comments... still you can build a bridge but can you make them cross it? Pun very much intended. Read all about it. A bientot.

Thought For The Day

"Courage is as often the outcome of despair as of hope; in one case we have nothing to lose,
in the other everything to gain."

Diane DePottiers

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Price & Value-Driven

Blockbuster announces it will no longer charge late fees in direct response to Netflix, which lets you keep the DVDs as long as you want for just one monthly fee. The power of the marketplace speaks again, and customers have taken the initiative yet again. Little late, but who knows? Read the article. Enjoy. Good marketing lesson here.

The Land of Big PX

A great article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about how the Post Exchange system is meeting the needs of servicemen and women in the field in Iraq and elsewhere. They are apparently growing at 6% in the last year even with the troops in the war. It's about knowing your customers and meeting their needs, albeit in difficult situations. I remember well my first Christmas as an 18 year old airman and 3,000 miles away from home and buying my Mom a silver Parker fountain pen. It was a big purchase when you're only getting $80 a month, but it was so special and I was so homesick. Last year my mother gave it to me and I love it. So the moral of the story is that even in war, soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines are shoppers and marketing never ends.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Rumpole of the Bailey

If you've ever watched PBS Mystery then you know about Rumpole, a barrister at the Old Bailey who simply loves the under dog and is irreverent. He was played by a great Shakespearean actor named Leo McKern, who died a couple of years ago. McKern was Rumpole and when I read the stories, written by John Mortimer, I can hear Leo as Rumpole. Now that's value and good writing. Since this is about marketing, I am singing the praises of Amazon.com because the shipment of the Rumpole books was sent fast and I can now get away from marketing tomes this weekend and ensconce myself with Rumpole. Rumpole is where I got "She Who Must Be Obeyed" since that's what he calls his wife, Hilda.

Thanks Amazon. Another happy customer. But I also bought The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki, so I'll still be delving into marketing. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Looking For Trends? Look Around You!

In my little corner of California's paradise, the growth trends are hot. Our housing market is one of the fastest growing in the nation with today's landscape soon bulldozed for yet another development with a cute fuzzy name that rousts the best homing emotions of peaceful, tranquil and "Leave It To Beaver" hopes and dreams. But our roads are clogged with traffic full of SUVs and fancy pickups and the drivers have lost their affable and friendly charm being more apt to share the middle finger than let you in their lane. I've also noticed something that indicates changes in the demographics: new publications aimed at cornering niche markets with more local news and of course ads ---apparently to the detriment of the dominant Inland Empire newspaper that is losing market share--- upscale services like spas, gourmet ice cream, fancy restaurants and a mall that can't keep up with demand as well as a myriad of self-employed handymen and contractors too busy to give you a definite time when they'll be able to get your home upgrade. Within the past two months two new radio stations---one with soft jazz and the other with Boomer music from the 60s and 70s---told me we have arrived and marketers better wake up.

Our sleepy, seemingly dream-like way station of life has morphed to a thriving asshole to elbow crowded environment. That means that my marketplace has now reached my home turf and that I am now looking differently at my business development to include my backyard. And it brings to mind that sometimes we are so engaged in looking elsewhere that we forget what's around us..

Connect To This Valuable Site

If you're not connected to iMediaconnection.com you should be...it's a direct window into our favorite reality: Marketing World. More fun than Disney World. This site is important. Go there. You can also subscribe to their email newsletter. Enjoy.

A CMO Tells All

A must read from CMO Magazine written by an anonymous CMO (a real person whose credentials have been checked out) on a letter he wrote his CEO about his role in the organization. It's so right on and explains so much that we marketers have always been saying: we're here to build business and manage the brand, but everyone has got to do their part. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Vive la France!

In this month's issue of Harvard Business Review is an ad cluster from the French government entitled: The New France. Where The Smart Money Goes. What's so fascinating about it is that it talks about innovation and can do rah rah stuff and has testimonials about how wonderful the French workers are, but there seems to be a disconnect in my mind as to how they can actually come through on their promises. With a 35 hour work week and business stultifying unions, how does anyone get anything done? I am reminded of my cousins who work for the state railroad and how little incentive they have to do anything more than what they do, and grudgingly at that. May not be a fair assumption based on my familial observations, but every time I've visited the motherland, I can tell you that people don't talk about opportunities, they talk about the drugery of working in the shops (seems like France is a nation of small shops) or for the state-run companies and retiring early or taking their six weeks off a year to go to warmer climes. C'est la vie, I guess. As my friend Jim says, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it." A bientot.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

If You Can't Live With It, Move To Mozilla

It's very easy to understand why Mozilla is winning hearts and minds all over the Internet: It works, it's easy and it's not Microsoft! Hurray. I had been having trouble with Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. My computer would freeze up, it was slow, I couldn't click through to links, etc. I tried working around it and finally said, "That's it." I downloaded Mozilla Firefox browser and Mozilla Thunderbird email. I love it. No wonder it's taking Microsoft market share. No patches and no waiting for Microsoft to fix problems or charge you $35 a pop for rectifying their mistakes. You need to do this. Now I'm thinking of leaving Windows altogether. If the Internet is ultimately about freedom of thought and community, I have seen the promised land.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Better Living Through Chemistry

Remember when Dupont used that tagline? Well, it looks like we Americans took it to heart since HHS Secretary Thompson's report today that nearly 44% of us are on some type of prescription medication. And those of us who think we can break the strangle hold on healthcare cost from the pharmaceutical companies better rethink this. In healthcare, as in all businesses, money talks and bullshit walks. Pure and simple. As a healthcare marketer, I can only say that I am a capitalist but it's been so clear for so long that our healthcare system is so broken

Read the report.

Are You A Deadbeat or ?

Frontline on PBS just aired the history of credit cards and I highly recommend you read it. It appears that I am a deadbeat, according to the banking industry, since we pay our cards off each month. Zippo balance, just convenience in today's world. The ethical issue for marketers has to do with engaging a more than willing public in paying out more and more each month without a hope of ever getting out debt. This has been an especially tough problem for those in the lower socio-economic ranks who are preyed upon with subprime loans and the likes. I know that our role as marketers is to develop business and make money for our companies, but there has to be a line drawn in the sand on this. Watch this show if you can or go to the website and watch it online.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

How To Be Creative

Marketing is about creativity, indeed all of life is but somehow we get beat down by "the system" soon after we leave the comforts of our homes to go to school. Creativity is what distinguishes the successful from the also ran...So go to changethis.com and download a pdf of Hugh's manifesto on this vital topic. It's a great piece of work. Hugh is the incredible creator of gapingvoid.com, another site you should regularly visit. And besides he's a Francophile. Nuff said. Enjoy.