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Ease into the week — personal brand license plate?

November 5, 2006

I don’t know about you but Sunday nights are time for me to catch up.  On my reading, on my work, on my relationships — all with an eye on Monday morning and knowing that the 180 mph pace is about to resume.

Sundays also seem to be my day for deep thoughts.  I thought it might be fun to ease into the week together with a question that is sort of about branding and marketing but also has a personal element to it as well.  A chance to get to know each other AND talk shop.  Perfect for a Sunday night.

At MMG, we’re all about branding.  We preach it, believe in it and celebrate it for our clients.  But, there’s a whole movement surrounding personal branding too. 
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As I walked by my SUV tonight, my license plate caught my eye.  I’ve had the same plate for about 9 or 10 years now and it never fails to strike up a conversation.  But, in a lot of ways, it is the core of my personal brand.  I thought I’d share it with you and ask you this question:

If you could brand yourself with a license plate (let’s say a max of 8 letters) what word or combination of letters would you choose to tell the world what you are all about?

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What do you believe in?

November 4, 2006

Images_1 It’s really my goal with this blog to create dialog about marketing, branding, customers and doing business.  But one of the really unique things about blogs is that no matter the topic, they get personal.  I love how the better blog writers artfully weave bits of their personality, lives and passions into their posts.

A great example of that is a post that I first saw several weeks ago.

Starbucker
over at Ramblings from A Glass Half Full created quite a flurry of posts, links and trackbacks with his post inspired by one of my top ten films Bull Durham.  Starbucker’s post was called  Crash Davis and the Belief Statement – My Turn.

I thought his post and the posts that followed were inspiring, thought-provoking and quite revealing about the authors.  I decided I would take a stab at it myself, but it has taken me awhile to really mull over what beliefs I held so fervently that I should include them.

So, a little late in the game…here’s what I believe in.  I hope that this post might re-spark some other folks to jump in and add to the chorus. 

I believe…

  • being a dad is the most important thing I’ll ever do and that my daughter is my legacy to this world.
  • in God’s grace.
  • passion cannot be ignored.
  • in the healing powers of walking along the ocean.
  • in savoring when you hit the sweet spot…and knowing how to recreate it.
  • everyone should have at least one guilty pleasure and one place that makes them feel like a kid again. (Mine is Disney World!)
  • life’s best smells are babies, a puppy’s belly, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, the softness of a special perfume as you dance to a slow song and a horse barn.  (I do not necessarily recommend that these smells be mixed)
  • good people become great people when they give from their hearts and that most bad people are good people who are stuck.
  • we are never too old to play and be silly. 
  • that nothing says I love you quicker than holding hands.
  • baseball is a metaphor for life and that doing what’s right often means hitting a sacrifice bunt.
  • the word empower should be removed from the English language.
  • we all decide the spirit of our day.
  • in the resilience of the human spirit, the depth of the human heart and the potential of the human imagination.
  • that everything is about relationships and people hunger to connect.
  • I am on this earth to be a part of things bigger than myself, to give all that I have and to love without hesitation or reservation.

What do you say…will you join in?

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Stop, drop and cone?

November 2, 2006

Starbucker over at Ramblings from a Glass Half Full (who always makes me think!) just posted an "I have too many things rattling around in my head" lament that I have no doubt most people can relate to.  I know, as an agency owner and active community volunteer (not to mention dad et al) there are some days when I literally run from meeting to meeting, trying to squeeze in phone calls in between meetings.  And then I wonder…when will I get all the work done that these meetings generated?  Those are frustrating days.  But, to be fair, I do it to myself. 

Sometimes I have to give myself a reprieve.  So I cone myself.Cone1_1

Coning is something we invented at McLellan Marketing Group because all of us need some "quiet time" now and then.  Every employee at MMG has a traffic cone in their office.  When that cone is placed in their doorway, it means, "unless the building is on fire, do not disturb me."

I coned myself for about 90 minutes yesterday.  The week had been frantic and I was riding very close to several deadlines.  I got more done in those 90 minutes than I had all week.  And best of all….I felt great.  I felt calm, I felt successful.  I felt like I was back in control.  Here are some of my secrets to successful coning.

  • Have a commonly understood signal (like the cone) that everyone in your office will honor.
  • Set the example by NEVER interrupting a coned person.
  • Turn your cell phone, regular phone et al ringers off.
  • Do not check e-mail, blog feeds or any other distraction during your coned time.
  • Do not do it for more than 90 minutes (its very frustrating to be on the other side of the cone and need to talk to someone who’s been coned for 3 hours.)
  • Make it a habit.  Do it at least 3 times a week.

Of course, it does not have to be a cone.  Get creative.  As you can see, I have added a skull to my own cone…just to reinforce the gravity of circumstance that one would experience if they broke the code of the cone.

It’s hard to keep those marketing juices flowing if you are feeling bogged down.  Find a way to get yourself some quiet time.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly you get re-fueled.  BTW– The Chicago Tribune liked this idea so much, they shared it with their readers a while back.

(And yes, I have a carpet with a little road on it for match box cars in my office.  Another post for another time!)

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Blogtipping — November ’06

November 1, 2006

Blogtipping I am joining with my fellow bloggers in celebrating some new blogs that I discovered this past month.  As is the blogtipping tradition, (created by Easton Ellsworth) I’ll offer a few reasons why I like the blog and one suggestion for improvement.

Flooring the Consumer by C.B. Whittemore.  This is a very insightful blog that focuses on how to relate to your customers.

  1. The stories are real, relevant and entertaining.
  2. Although C.B. works in the carpet industry, her examples span the world of retail.
  3. C.B. is very generous with reference links — books, articles, web sites, etc.

Suggestion:  My one suggestion for improvement is that C.B. does not allow trackbacks.  I think her stuff is too good and everyone should be able to find her thoughts.

The Blogfathers by a core group of dad/authors.  As a man who is passionate about being a dad, I love this blog. 

  1. It is authentic, funny, touching and well-written.
  2. The blending of multiple dads gives the blog texture and variety.
  3. The topics are an excellent and real life blend of serious and not so serious.

Suggestion:  My one suggestion for improvement would be to break up some of the longer posts with subheads or something to give our eyes a break.

OkDork.com is Noah Kagan’s random ponderings as he meanders through life.  He puts the spotlight on everything from business to life’s purpose and just about everything in between.

  1. Noah’s writing style is conversational but well written.
  2. He has gathered a group of regulars who make it feel like a community.
  3. The authenticity of his musings bubbles up from every post.

Suggestion:  Don’t let the community feel get so "insider jokish" that it becomes a barrier, rather than feeling invited to join a group of friends.

I’m off to find some more great blogs…after all, I only have 30 days until blogtipping — December ’06!

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Mobilize!

October 30, 2006

Images_5 Do you still think of your cellular phone as a way to call home to see if you need to pick up milk?  Probably not.  It’s a way to keep track of phone numbers, your calendar and surf the web, right?

Partially.

It is also one of the latest marketing mediums to surface.  Text message marketing is just the beginning.  Want to be reminded of your favorite show’s start time?  Odds are, if you go to the show’s official website, you can make that happen.

Want to know when you favorite bar has live music?  Yup, that’s available too.

Right now the technology has largely been adopted by consumer products — beer and soft drink companies, couponable transactions, destinations.  But, can the B to B applications be far behind?

Lenveno, a computer company that acquired IBM’s personal computing division last year is saying no.  This summer they ran a mobile promotion aimed at small business decision makers.  Their goal, to build awareness for the ThinkPad PC brand.

The campaign achieved a 188% increase in aided brand awareness and 156% in product recall.

Impressive, eh?  And we’re just beginning to see this tactic.  Want to read more about it?  Check out what they have to say over at the spillover effect.

Ask yourself this — if your current customers gave you their cell phone number — how could you add value, increase loyalty and create incremental sales?

Interesting question.

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All I want for Christmas…

October 30, 2006

…is another popcorn tin?

Less than 60 days to the culmination of the holiday gift giving season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa.  (Or any combination!)

Most businesses try to acknowledge their best clients over the holidays.  A smart plan.  But it often loses a great deal in the execution.  What do you give your clients?  Popcorn tin?  Fruitcake (eww) or  fruit basket?Images1

I know, how about a paperweight or nut assortment? 

All fine ideas.  (insert yawn here).

Sorry — but could you be any more like everyone else?  Why bother?  Do you have any idea how many of those items stack up at the average business?  What does your gift say about you and your organization?  Here’s what I think those gifts say:

  • We didn’t want to put a lot of thought into this.
  • We wanted to do something easy.
  • All of our clients are getting the same thing, so you’re really not that special after all.
  • We’re generic — nothing special about our gift, nothing special about us.

I know, that’s a little harsh.  But come on…admit it.  When you receive your 4th popcorn tin of the season, are you all giddy inside?  Can you even remember who gave you what?

I have searched the blogosphere to find others having this conversation and guess what.  Most of them say "Be generic. Give the same stuff everyone else does, it’s safe."

Sure is.  And it is completely forgettable too.  Why waste your money?

You have two choices, in my opinion.  If you have a handful of clients, then buy them something that shows you understand what matters to them.  If they love theatre, tickets to a show.  Into their kids — a game night package, complete with popcorn.  Demonstrate that they matter to you by knowing who they are.

If you have a larger number of clients to remember, think about your company’s brand.  What are you all about?  What’s your brand promise?  What gift seems to be fitting with that?  What feels like you?  What gift, when they look at the booty for the season, will stand out and be unmistakably from you and only you?

So…what will you be wrapping up for clients this holiday season?

 

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Do you sound stupid?

October 28, 2006

Images2 Okay, right off the bat I need to admit I am annoyed.  So if there’s a sharpness to the tone, you know why.  It’s not you.  But out of my annoyance comes a great marketing tip.

I have decided I need (not want) a smart phone.  I’m tired of not having my calendar and contact lists with me at all times.  I’m content to pay for the upgrade, knowing it will make me more productive.

I am an ideal customer.  I am ready to buy.  I have money to spend.

So…with that mindset, I enter the Verizon store.  Before I can buy, I need some help.  You see, like the rest of the world will someday be…I am a Mac guy.  (more on this later) I ask them which smart phone is most compatible with Macs.  Here’s what tech support guy and sales woman both say.

"Oh, you can’t use a Mac with them.  It’s Windows technology."

I say…."are you sure?  Seems to me that with all the Macs out there, someone would have figured that out."

"Yeah, well, when they were designing the phones, Mac didn’t have a computer so they didn’t take that into account." 

What? 

To which the other adds, "actually, with Mac declining, Verizon is really not going to be worrying about that platform."

What?

Here’s the marketing tip.  If you are ignorant, for the Love of Pete, admit it.  Clearly both of these professionals are under educated about their product.  And technology in general.  Which is a shame.  But, if you find yourself in that same boat, just admit you don’t know.  Consumers are much more forgiving of ignorance than they are of stupidity.   Be authentic.  Just say you don’t know.

The other downside of sounding stupid as opposed to admitting ignorance is that you are not inclined to go find out.  Admitting you don’t know is often the first step in finding the answer.  Aral Balkan actually proposed an "I don’t know day" which is an interesting concept.

By the way, for the rest of your forward thinking technology users, here’s the information from ZDNet on which smart phone works best with the Mac.

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Not a hand check…a brand check!

October 27, 2006

050409_5303_1929_j__pthm Remember those junior high and high school parties?  When some parent, thinking they’re funny, would shout "hand check!"  Well, think of me as a marketer who thinks he’s funny and I am shouting…

"Brand check!"

Think your brand is rock solid?  Let’s check. For the next week, we’re going to conduct some poor man’s research.  You’ll need a pad of paper and a pen or pencil.

Ask every customer, vendor, consumer of your goods/services, and employee to describe your organization in a single word.  You’ll be amazed at the insights from this little exercise.

Anyone brave enough to share the results on my blog?  Why not share the learning?

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How do your customers shop?

October 26, 2006

Here’s one thing I know for sure about your consumers.  They are either men or women.  (Or kids who will soon evolve into one or the other.)  Especially in a retail setting, they  behave like completely different animals. 5298_040827_14828thm

Paco Underhill, founder of Envirosell, a market research company dedicated to examining consumer shopping behavior wrote a fascinating book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.  In the book, Underhill explores the shopping beasts by gender.

   

Here are a few observations Underhill made about male shoppers:

~ Men equally rarely ask for the department they want in a store. They’d rather wander around lost and leave if they can’t find it. 

~ If a man tries something on, he’ll buy it 65% of the time.

~ Only 25% of men will grocery shop with a list, as opposed to 70% of women.

If men shop this way – what clues does this give you for dealing with men in your environment?

   

How about the ladies, you ask?  Well…

~ If a woman tries something on, she’ll buy it 25% of the time. (Remember, men were at 65%)

~  At the supermarket, over 90% of women brought a shopping list.

~  Women particularly hate being jostled from behind and may leave a store without buying if aisles are too narrow.

Wondering what others are saying about it?  Secrets of the Male Shopper is a long but very interesting read about the state of the male shopper.  Check it out.  Smart thinking made even more notable because the author is an 18 year old student.

So, are your shopping habits typical of your gender?  How can you use these insights as you think about your customers?

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