Ease into the week — who creates a lovefest for you?

November 12, 2006

Portrait of Walt Disney, 1 January 1954 Here i...Image via Wikipedia

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.

We’ve all read and heard about experiential marketing.  Marketing that goes beyond features and benefits and actually makes the customer a part of the selling/buying experience.  Great examples are some of the themed restaurants like Rain Forest Cafe or shopping/road testing a Harley.  These businesses have captured a powerful marketing truth.  People buy what they love and what they feel a part of.  So here’s this week’s question:

What business or retail establishment best envelopes you into the buying experience, creates a lovefest between you and them, and makes you feel like a member of the club?  And, of course,  how do they do that for you?

My answer?  Walt Disney World.  (not just any amusement park or theme park — just this one) I step onto the grounds and I change.  Physically, emotionally, mentally.   I’ll bet if you tested it, my blood pressure would drop 15 points.  The smells, the sounds, the visual stimulation — it all connects with me, heart and soul.  Its hard to explain and sounds a little nutty I suspect, but its like going home for me.  More on this later…

P.S. I plan on doing a 9-day blog series, "What marketing lessons can we learn from Walt Disney" in a few weeks, when my family and I make our annual pilgrimage to the mouse house.

P.S.S.  Runners up for me in this question…the Apple Store, Barnes & Noble.

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Fortune 500 Corporate Blog Review Series: Apple

November 11, 2006

Image representing Apple Inc. as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase

When I read on Easton Ellsworth’s blog about the Fortune 500 Corporate Blog Project, I decided I wanted to participate.  The premise is simple…volunteer bloggers choose one or more of the Fortune 500 companies and do a little legwork to see if the company has an official blog.  Post it wiki style and voila, together we have created some pretty impressive knowledge.

I chose one of my favorite companies, #159 Apple. (AAPL) I have to admit, I made the assumption that of course they’d have a corporate blog.  I mean, come on…it’s Apple.

Typical of Apple, they aren’t doing it like most others.  Instead, on their homepage is a link to what they call Hot News with an RSS feed.  But the Hot News is a blend of internal news and links to outside sources, like O’Reilly Digital Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

There are no opportunities to comment or trackback.  So not exactly a blog, but more than a website. 

There are plenty of unofficial blogs focusing on Apple, their products, et al as you might imagine.  Technorati lists over 4,300 of them.

If you haven’t grabbed a company to research — grab one soon.  I’m off to add my 2 cents to the wiki.

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Listen up! (How all companies should use blogs)

November 11, 2006

Images1_2 Despite a bazillion new blogs being started every day, business blogging still seems to be in its infancy.  Many companies are still wondering why they would need a blog.  And maybe they don’t.  Creating and maintaining a blog is not for everyone or every organization.  But that doesn’t mean blogging isn’t an important business tool.

You should use blogs to listen to your customers.  You’ll be amazed at what they’re saying.  Here are a couple links that say it better than I can.  Mike’s post tells you how to do it.  Tom’s two-parter will give you a remarkable example of how a company turned a rant into a rave…all by listening to blogs.

Mike Sansone’s How To Listen In post.

Tom Vander Well’s Real Life Example posts.  Part one.  And…part two.

Read…and learn.  And start to listen.

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Our glass was WAY past full this morning!

November 10, 2006

Did you feel it?  About 8:30 central time (US)? A slight rumble underfoot?  An eerie aura or sense that it was no ordinary day?

Me too.  Because here in Des Moines, IA (the blogging capital of the world) we had a gathering.  And a guest.

Starbucker of Ramblings From a Glass Half Full was in KC for business and decided he had to come up and see what the blogging mecca of Des Moines was all about.  As you can see, he had dinner with Tim Johnson of Carpe Factum last night and then got some good rest so he was ready for “DSM Goes a Blogging”  (no, not clogging Tom VW) this morning.

What ensued was quite a bit of raucous laughter at Panera, as we online friends put faces and voices to the thoughts and ideas we’ve been sharing together for months.  It was tough, after more than 90 minutes, to drag myself away and actually get to the day job.  But I have no doubt we’ll get together again.

Here’s a snapshot of the motley crew.  In order, from left to right (or as I like to think of it…most handsome to….)

Sandy Renshaw of Purple Wren
Tom Vander Well of QAQNA
Tim Johnson of Carpe Factum
Mike Sansone of Converstations
Starbucker the guest of honor (gotta love a guy who only uses one name!) of Glass Half Full
Mike Wagner of Own Your Brand


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Don’t talk to Strangers!

November 9, 2006

Images_8 The mantra of mothers everywhere.  "Don’t talk to strangers!."  At least it was the mantra of my mom.  When my daughter was little, it shifted to "stranger danger!"  But the message was the same.  We talk to the people we trust.  People we know.

It’s no different in marketing.  Consumers are fed up.  They are tired of being talked to.  They are tired of the unwanted invasion. They want to engage in a conversation.   With someone they trust.  Someone they know.

There’s a great book that talks all about this called Waiting for your Cat to Bark.  It’s an insightful read about how the inmates have taken over the prison!  The consumer truly is in charge today.  As we sit here and blog, we are living proof of that.   The Do Not Call list is living proof of that.  Spam filters — yup, living proof.

Valeria Maltoni, over at Conversation Agent, has a great post about "the consumer revolution."  In the post, she offers 10 great questions that speak from the customer’s voice about how they want to engage in that conversation.

So, here’s my question for you.   What are you doing to move your brand from stranger to trusted friend?  I fear if we don’t — we’re going to be very lonely because pretty soon, we’re not going to have anyone to talk to.

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Why do you blog?

November 8, 2006

Blogging MontageImage by Blogging Librarian via Flickr

CK, over at CK’s blog asked a simple question.  Why do marketers blog?  She got so many great answers that she wanted to capture them, rather than let the scroll down to her archive and get lost.

So she created a PDF.  Check it out — some great, insightful thoughts.

But…she wants to one up herself, so she’s asking the same question again. What is the single greatest value you get from blogging?

Join in the conversation.

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Is wacky marketing a good idea?

November 7, 2006

Now there’s a loaded question, eh?

The answer, of course, is…maybe.  Maybe not.  How’s that for decisive marketing counsel?  Wacky for wacky’s sake is fun but its for you, not for your customer.   Wacky for the right reasons, in the right place…for the right business?  Now that’s worth looking at, from your customer’s POV.

It all wraps around the bigger issue of branding.  Does your brand fit with wacky?  If so, you can probably come up with an attention-getting marketing tactic that celebrates something unique about your brand.  But if you’re a law firm, it probably doesn’t make much sense.Images2_1

An article in an old Entrepreneur Magazine caught my eye.  The author lists 10 "crazy marketing stunts."  Frankly, I think most of them are  bad ideas.   Which doesn’t make the concept a bad one — but it does point out that being silly for silly’s sake also speaks volumes about your brand.  So be wacky mindfully.

The Travelocity Gnome…great idea.  It fits their brand.  The lizard with the accent and the funny commercials — Geico has done a great job of making themselves different from all the other insurance guys — much like their AFLAC competitors have done with the duck.

So don’t discount wacky.  But do it for the right reason.  Because it fits your brand.

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Credibility is a delicate thing

November 7, 2006

Credibility is a fragile flower. You need to nurture its growth and then protect it from harsh winds. 

A couple examples.   The post I put up last night had a couple key Iowa political events mixed up.   It was Jim Nussle, the Republican running for Governor who had the rotary conflict and his opponent Chet Culver who aced him by offering to change dates.  Here’s the story.  I owe an apology to the Lamberti folks for mixing up their candidate with Jim Nussle.  I am fixing it now, as soon as I am realizing I mixed facts.

There’s that correction and accurate story.  Still a great marketing message just wrong character’s names.

Images1_1 Now…onto the Lamberti lesson.  Jeff Lamberti is eager to have President Bush appear on his behalf.  It’s been an ugly race…and who doesn’t like having a big name endorsement, right?

Well, an endorsement is a marketing tactic that only works when it sounds credible.  We’re all a little suspect of them — wondering if the endorsement is a paid spokesperson (like Jessica Simpson for Proactiv — paid or happy customer?) or if there’s an angle we are missing.

So, we listen carefully.  And we weigh the strength of the endorsement on the speaker’s sincerity and how familiar he or she appears with the product, service or in this case, candidate.

So when President George Bush calls the candidate by the wrong name (Dave) a couple times, it speaks volumes.  Take a look at the White House’s official website, where Bush’s speech about Lamberti is cataloged.  They STILL have it wrong. 

So….when you have done something that threatens your credibility, what do you do?

  • You correct the mistake honestly and quickly (like this post addressing the Lamberti/Nussle mix up in my earlier post.  Bush should have done so on his website.)

  • You apologize sincerely and as publicly as you made the error  (I have done that here and in an e-mail to the Lamberti staffer who first notified me of the mistake and in his comment on this blog.  Again, Bush should have written a letter to the editor or done something to erase the fact that he’d called Jeff the wrong name.)
  • You don’t dwell on it,, but move forward in your usual credible way. You re-earn people’s trust by being authentic.  (That’s for the audience to dictate, not you.)

People will forgive you the mistake and let you quickly re-earn their credibility by just owning up to it.  Could I have just deleted the post and avoided the embarrassment of the error?  Sure.  What would that have said to any of you who’d already read it?  Or heard about it later? 

I hate this time of year with all the political backstabbing and half-truths.  But there’s always the silver lining — lots of good marketing lessons to be learned!


Pictured is candidate JEFF Lamberti

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Thanks President Bush but I’m kinda busy

November 6, 2006

Let me paint the picture for you and you can read between the lines.  Images_7

We have a hotly contended congressional race here in Iowa.  The Republican Jeff Lamberti is trying to unseat the Democrat Leonard BoswellPresident Bush made a special trip to Des Moines support Lamberti.  Lamberti orignally had a conflict because he had made a commitment to speak to the very influential downtown rotary. A true and convenient excuse to avoid offending the President but also avoiding being seen with him.  (Note:  This is my supposition…I don’t believe that the President’s approval ratings are helping any Republicans this year).

Interesting, but not all that noteworthy.  Yet.  Here’s the part I love.

Leonard Boswell (the opponent), who was slated the following week at the rotary, graciously offered to switch weeks.   Keep in mind, these two men are running one of the most negative, nasty campaigns I have seen in a long time.  And out of the blue, Boswell decided to be gracious.  Hmm.

Now Lamberti is in a pickle.  He had the perfect out.  We all know (again…my assumption based on current day realities) he didn’t want to appear with President Bush.  But his opponent was brilliant.  Lamberti could now embarrass the President by still declining or embarrass himself by appearing with the President.

And Boswell looks magnanimous.  Brilliant.

There’s a great marketing message in this story.  Sometimes being gracious to your competitor is the best offense of all.  Especially in a sea of dirty political advertising, Boswell’s gentlemanly offer made him momentarily smell like a rose…and put his opponent is a sticky wicket.  By the way…Bush and Jeff Lamberti did appear together.  Bush repeatedly called his close friend Jeff by the name of Dave.  No wonder politicians are inwardly groaning when they hear Bush is coming to town.

No matter how much the politicians have worn you down — please plan on voting tomorrow.  It won’t get better if we check out.

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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. 
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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