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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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.

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. 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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