Do you take yourself seriously?

October 7, 2011

At McLellan Marketing Group, we live by our core beliefs.  One of them is:

We take our work seriously.  Ourselves… not so much.

Let’s be honest here.  None of us save lives every day.  (Okay, if you actually do… you have my permission to skip this post) Sometimes, I think we need to just get over how important our work is and lighten up.  In front of our clients.  Let them see we have a sense of humor about ourselves.

Why?  Because they’ll actually enjoy working with you more.

Check out these planes from Kulula Airlines.  No doubt their work is serious.  They propel humans 30,000 feet into the sky and have to get them back down safely.  But that doesn’t mean they have to be uptight about everything.  Southwest Airlines has nothing on them!

What do you suppose the flying experience is like?  I’d sure want to try it!

That’s delivering the brand and some word of mouth worthiness at the same time!

Check out these photos… and enjoy your Friday.  Be sure you read the labels.  Some of them are hysterical. (Email subscribers — if you can’t see the pictures, click here to view them.)

Kulula Airlines #1
Kulula Airlines #2
Kulula Airlines #3
Kulula Airlines #4


My thanks to blog reader Amy Roppe for sharing these with me!


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What are you doing to generate word of mouth

October 6, 2011


Amazon’s Vine program

We all know how awesome word of mouth is.  We know it beats any mode of advertising and that over 90% of consumers say it’s the most compelling factor in their decision to buy.

We all want it.  We want our customers to go skipping down the street, singing odes to us.  We want them to pull out their rolodex and drunk dial their peers to shout our praises.  We want them to tattoo our logo on their rear end. (Hey, it works for Harley)

So we patiently sit and wait for them to do just that.  And we wait.  And we wait.

Perhaps it’s time we actually do something to make it happen.

Amazon created a program they call Vine.  They have formed a small cadre of customers and inved them to be Vine members.  A Vine member gets two free books or any other item (they provide a list…you choose from that list) that Amazon sells every month. In exchange, you agree to review those items.  Good, bad or ugly — once you publish your two reviews for the month, you’ll eligible to get more free stuff the next month.

I’m a Vine member.  Of the 12 or more reviews I have written, almost all of them have been positive.  A couple effusive and a couple were so-so.  So at least 80% of the reviews they’ve gotten from me have been praising the products.  They generated word of mouth because they set out to get it.

If mega-store Amazon has to actively create word of mouth opportunities, what do you suppose the odds are that you’ll suddenly get a bunch of spontaneous praise?

Exactly.  Which is why we need to purposefully and actively generate it.

How could you do that in your business or how are you doing it today?


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Customer service case study from Jeff the cabbie

September 18, 2011

… meet Jeff the marketing professor!

From on outset, I knew this was going to be a different sort of cab ride.  I walked out of the hotel and just like it has happened hundreds of times before…magically, the taxi appeared.

But from that moment on, it wasn’t a ride, it was an experience!

The bellman put my suitcase in the trunk as I got into the back seat.  The driver immediately turned around in his seat and extended his hand.  As we shook hands, he introduced himself and asked what kind of music I liked.

I told him to surprise me and he suggested some Carlos Santana because “you can’t help but feel joyful if you’re listening to Santana.”

As we headed towards the airport — my marketing lesson continued.  Jeff got a call (like cab drivers always do) but quickly told his wife he had to go because he was chatting with his new friend Drew.

He proudly pointed out to me that his taxi was a Lincoln Town Car and as I commented on how the leather glistened, he explained that he wipes down the interior a few times a day to keep it like new.

In the course of the conversation he gave me  his business card with his cell phone number on it.  He invited me to call and pre-schedule with him next time I was in St. Louis.  He told me that most of his fares were by referral or repeat business.  I’m not surprised.

When we got to the airport, he not only got my bag out of the trunk, but he carried it to the airport’s door.  We said goodbye with another handshake.

I bet it won’t surprise you that he received more than a healthy tip from me.  And I suspect that’s the case with most of his fares.

What are the takeaways from Professor Jeff?

People do business the people: It’s hard to imagine a less random choice than hailing a cab.  Whoever is first in line is who you choose.  But Jeff made sure he wasn’t some random cabbie to me.  He went out of his way to become a person — and a person I liked.  Next time I am headed to St. Louis, I will be calling Jeff.

It’s all about the customer: Jeff made me feel like he actually cared that I was in his cab.  He called me by my name.  He didn’t talk on his cell phone but instead, stayed engaged with me.  He invited me to partake in the music selection and we chatted for the entire 30 minute drive.

Appearances do matter: His cab was immaculate, inside and out.  He was dressed neatly and he had a warm and genuine smile on his face.  You honestly couldn’t help but enjoy doing business with him.

I’d bet that Jeff never took a single marketing course. (He was a cop for 25 years before becoming a cab driver) He probably doesn’t have a brand manual, a tagline or a company vision statement.

But he understood customer service better than many companies that have all three.

And if you’re ever headed to St. Louis, let me know.  I’ll hook you up with my buddy Jeff, so you can get some marketing schooling!

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THE best customer service tip ever

August 31, 2011

… stellar customer service = pinky swearing

I’m going to tell you THE secret to incredible customer service, customer retention and word of mouth referrals.

It’s quite complicated so you’ll want to print off this post and hang it somewhere where you can refer to it every day.

If you’ve got music playing or some other distraction around you — turn it off/put it away so you can fully concentrate on the concept I am about to unveil before your very eyes.


Pinky Swear.

When we were kids, if you pinky swore — that was a blood oath, a die or do it sort of thing.  There were no asterisks, exceptions, small type or exclusions.  It was a pinky swear. Enough said.

If you want your customers to rave about you and to come back time and time again — pinky swear.

If you are so old that you don’t remember pinky swearing — let me translate it for you.

Do what you say you’re going to do.  Every time.  No exceptions.

Go forth….and pinky swear.  Your customers will love you for it.


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Taglines that stick

May 5, 2011



I think most taglines used by businesses today are a cop out.  They feel good but promise nothing. A reader wrote and asked if I’d talk about the other side of the coin – what makes a tagline great?

Creating and using a strong tagline takes real courage.  A tagline that will last for decades is one that makes a bold statement or promise.

So what do you need to consider as you evaluate your own tagline?

A strong tagline makes someone take pause. It might be the person it’s directed at like – Just Do It.  Or it might be the employee who has to keep the promise – when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.

A memorable tagline should be a bit daunting.  That’s why it’s impressive.  If BMW has told us their cars were a nice ride, would you have remembered?  But who doesn’t want to drive the ultimate driving machine?  Talk about setting high expectations!

An enduring tagline is tied specifically to the product/service: Another element of a strong, test of time tagline is that we connect it to the company who owns it.  We don’t remember it just because it’s clever.  We remember who said it.  Take this little quiz. Who told us “you deserve a break today” or promised us “we try harder.”

This is where the generic taglines about “our people” and quality lose their steam.  Who doesn’t believe they provide good quality and that their people are dedicated to their jobs?

A memorable tagline tells a story: In a single sentence, we got the picture when Timex told us “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  We can only imagine what might happen if forgot the warning “don’t leave home without it.”

We learn through stories.  We teach lessons through stories.  And we buy and sell around stories.  It’s much easier for us to remember a story than straight facts.  Which is why a story telling tagline sticks.

A powerful tagline points out how the product/service is unique: Who doesn’t know the unique advantage of an M&M?  They “melt in your mouth, not in your hand,” right?  The Marine’s tagline reminds us that they’re very choosy about who they let into their club.  “The few.  The proud.  The Marines” lets us know that there’s exclusivity to their brand.

Everyone wants a strong tagline but most businesses are afraid to make a bold promise.  What happens if it doesn’t get there overnight?  Or if the watch breaks?

Good marketers understand that a tagline is not an absolute.  Sure, every once in awhile you’re going to miss the mark.  But how you handle it when you fall short is part of the brand promise too.


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Walt Disney’s marketing tips

January 24, 2011

Picture 6My greatest teacher when it comes to all things marketing was not a professor or professional mentor. 

It was Walt Disney.  

Somehow, in the midst of ROI, measurability, counting clicks and studies that can track a person’s eye movements to see what part of an ad captures their attention first — we have forgotten that marketing and branding is ultimately about wooing and winning someone’s heart.

But Walt never did.

At MMG, we talk a lot about creating a love affair with your customer… but Walt knocked it out of the park and his cast members continue to do it today, with every guest interaction and every new story told.

A few years ago, in the midst of one of our annual pilgrimages to the Mouse, I wrote a series of blog posts that later became an e-book spotlighting some of the many ways that Walt Disney demonstrated his marketing chops.

These are tips that any business — B2B or B2C — can employ.  I'd love to share it with you and have you share it with others.  

Download it by clicking on the link:  Walt Disney's marketing tips


A hat tip and a hug to CK for being the one who said… "you know, this would make an awesome ebook" way back when.




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Brand alignment – are all the cogs in synch?

January 3, 2011

106584209Your brand is not your logo….your brand is not your logo.  (tired of hearing me say that yet?)

Your brand is the essence of your business.  From 20,000 feet  — it is who you are, why you exist, the unique value you offer your customers, how you behave, what you believe in, what you promise and of course, how you keep that promise.

When you not only understand but can articulate all of that to a prospective customer, potential employee and your current staff and clients — you now possess one of the most potent tools a business owner/leader can imagine.

One of the basic tenants of any relationship is consistency.  We trust the people and companies who behave in a way we can count on.  Brand alignment is a powerful way to make a promise and then keep that promise — over and over again.  Over time, that earns us the consistency badge which eventually leads to brand loyalty and referrals.

As 2011 kicks off — it’s time to examine your own brand’s alignment and decide if any aspect of it needs tuning up.  There are many moving parts to a brand — and they all have to be in synch.  

  • Your mission — why do you exist (from an internal point of view — why do you fight the fight every day?)
  • Your vision — how you want to change your corner of the world (from the world’s point of view)
  • Your promise — what is the promise that you will boldly make to your customers and employees — the sword you will always fall on
  • Your brand personality — how does your brand behave?  If you brand were a person — how would the world see him/her?
  • Your tagline — how do you tell the world about your vision and promise?  This is the first sentence of your elevator speech and how you get someone excited to work with/for you
  • Your visuals — if you had to describe your brand without words, how would you use colors, shapes, symbols etc. to do that.  Here’s where your logo and color palette come in
  • Your touch points — in every way you come into contact with your employees, prospects and customers — how do you weave your brand promise and personality into those encounters.  How do you add a bit of lagniappe that is uniquely you into each touchpoint?

We’ll dig into each of these aspects over the next couple weeks but for now, step back and look at the big picture.  Is every cog of your brand working in perfect alignment with the others?  If not, it’s time to make a change.

At McLellan Marketing Group, we don’t just preach this stuff, we live it out with you.  In our own brand alignment check, we decided that our tagline needed a tweak.  Back in 2003, when I bought out a business partner, we agreed that the company needed to be re-branded once the buy out was complete.  In the agreement, we only allowed a couple weeks to get that accomplished.  

We knew we believed that strategy was king.  It drives marketing creative, decisions and direction.  And one of our core beliefs is that passion cannot be ignored — so for the past 6 years, we’ve used the tagline “where strategy and passion collide!”  Still as true today as it was back then.  We believe there’s an energy that is created when clients with a passion for their work and customers get connected with the right strategy and with MMG. 

But… as we “grew up” as a company we recognized that what we’re spectacular at is helping our clients forge lifelong relationships with their customers.  That’s about brand, it’s about creating memorable experiences, it’s about being their hero and it’s about the notion that you have to keep courting your customers as though it’s your first date.

Screen shot 2011-01-03 at 9.38.17 AM Which has led us to talking a lot about creating a love affair with your customer.  We realized that when we introduced ourselves — that’s the line we were using to kick off the conversation, not our tagline.  So as of a couple weeks ago, we made the switch.  (And of course, will be continuing to change out everything over the next few weeks.) Our new tagline “Create a love affair with your customer” takes the strategy and passion’s collision and makes it very tangible.  It makes the collision matter.  It’s the why.

Your turn.  Start thinking about all of those brand elements listed above.  Is each cog in perfect alignment with the others or are they off just a little?

Want a tool to help you check your brand’s alignment?  Here’s a link to the MMG brand criteria chart.

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Could being remarkable really be this simple?

December 23, 2010

Picture 9 As you may know, I am a Disneyophile.  I love the Disney parks, I love the Disney movies' happy endings, I love the unrelenting pursuit of better customer service that drives Disney to their own level of excellence.

I also love Walt Disney's story.  

I know he wasn't perfect by a long shot.  But he was a dreamer, a story teller and a man who believed so strongly in his own vision that he ignited the people around him until they were as caught up in the dream as he was.  And despite being told no about a million times — he just keep at it until his dream came to be.

But if you've studied his life like I have, you discover that his philosophies are incredibly simple.  And in that simplicity, incredibly profound.

When asked how to build a successful business, he replied:

"Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends."  

Pretty much sums up referral selling, word of mouth marketing, and customer retention all in one sentence.  And in the end — isn't Walt talking about creating a love affair with your customers?

Do you think we make it too complicated?  Do you think Walt was right? Is that really all there is to it?




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Sometimes the toughest sell is inside

November 15, 2010

A huge number of brilliant marketing ideas never get exposed to the light of day.  Why? It's usually not budget or audience apathy.  It's internal fear.

Let's face it, there are a lot of frightened senior managers out there.  Afraid to be different. Afraid to actually take a stand. Afraid to differentiate and potentially lose a sale.  Afraid to make a bold decision.

Afraid of owning and celebrating their brand.

The result?  A whole lot of sameness.  Much like teenagers who would die rather than stand out, these decision makers block any attempts to do something unique enough to capture our attention or our hearts.

Which is why I loved listening to Ogilvy & Mather's Chairman Shelly Lazarus (at The Conference Board's Senior Marketing Executive Conference) tell the story of how Dove's True Beauty campaign got the green light.

Watch the spot (first released during the Super Bowl of all places!) and then I'll relate the story to you. (e-mail subscribers, click here to watch the spot)


Internally, the Dove marketing team knew this campaign had the potential to be so much more than a marketing campaign.  It was about embracing and owning their brand.  It was recognizing that they had the culture and the responsibility to address the issue of self esteem among girls.  (Much like Dawn did during the oil spill)

But, they knew it would be a tough sell internally. They believed in their idea enough to take a risk.  (Maybe that's the litmus test?)

They scheduled the meeting with their senior management to pitch the new TV spot (and the new direction for their brand) and then they did a sneaky thing.  A few days before the big meeting, they grabbed a video camera and interviewed the daughters of the men who would later be sitting around the conference room table.

The spot you just watched actually contains some of the sentiments that those daughters uttered.  Imagine sitting back, ready to critique a TV spot and seeing your 8-year old daughter say she hates her freckles or that she thinks she's fat.  Suddenly you are a father and the issue of self esteem and body image among girls is very, very real.  And very personal.

And the rest is history. The campaign has been brilliantly executed, Dove products have enjoyed a spike in sales and research/workshops like the Self-Esteem Report exist because of the Dove Self Esteem Fund.

All because someone had the courage to fight for an idea they believed in.  Next time you grumble about a client or boss who squashed a good idea, ask yourself how much fight you put into the battle.





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Marketing tip #81: Do you know what they notice?

November 11, 2010

Collegematerials You probably bust a hump (and a decent budget) getting your prospects to notice you.  

You study the demographics and know who your target market is.  You are an expert in your industry.  Your product/service is exceptional.  Your marketing materials are professionally produced and tested well with the focus groups.

You got all of the big things right.

And you still may have it wrong.  

So often, it's not about the big things.  It's about the details.  The tiny little thing that becomes the deal breaker or the deal maker.  

Let me give you an example.  My daughter is a high school senior and due to a lot of hard work on her part, a very successful student. As a result, she's being aggressively pursued by many colleges.  

The mailbox is bulging every day with stunning four color brochures.  She is receiving letters inviting her to bypass the regular application process and guarantees of academic scholarships of significance.  

No argument — all of these things are the right things.  But she isn't noticing.  

What's she's noticing is that one school seems to hold her in even higher esteem.  Because they send handwritten notes.  They take the time to attach a personal message on the drama page of their brochure because she's a drama kid.  They send postcards telling her what's happening on campus that she might enjoy.

We toss around words like authentic and transparent.  But you know what — it's a lot easier to talk about than it is to actually do.  It takes a lot of time to get the little things right. And you have to be able to sustain it.

So here's the question — what little thing could you do that they would notice?  And do you want their business badly enough to commit to doing it?

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