Evolve (Marketing Lessons from Walt)

November 28, 2006

This is the fourth in my eight-day series – Marketing Lessons from Walt.  As my family and I enjoy Walt Disney World, I’m going to capture some of the marketing genius that I believe began with Walt’s passion and has now grown into one of the world’s most powerful brands.

When Walt originally conceived Disneyland and Walt Disney World, his vision was to create a place where entire families, from toddler to grandparent, could enjoy the attractions together.  No health warnings, no height requirements.  And so they were built.

Fast forward to today, where the Rockin’ Roller Coaster is one of the most popular attractions at WDW.  This roller coaster is not for the faint of heart.  You go from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds and right into an upside down loop.   I can only imagine what Walt is thinking.20061128guitarjpg

But, then again, Walt was about as savvy a marketer as you can find.  So he is probably nodding his head and recognizing that strong brands must evolve with the times, the consumer, and the competition.  Had Disney executives clung to Walt’s vision without taking new realities into account, I’m not sure the theme parks would have survived for the past several decades.

Today’s Disney is a blend of Walt’s original family friendly vision and a modern amusement park.  The brand has evolved and thrived.

When was the last time you did a reality check on your own organization’s brand?  Are you stuck in a vision of the past?  Is it time for an evolution?

Marketing Lessons from Walt – The Series:

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Details, Details (Marketing Lessons from Walt)

November 28, 2006

This is the third in my eight-day series – Marketing Lessons from Walt.  As my family and I enjoy Walt Disney World, I’m going to capture some of the marketing genius that I believe began with Walt’s passion and has now grown into one of the world’s most powerful brands.

The moment you cross onto Disney property, the magic begins.  Yes, there are billboards touting the newest attractions.  Sure, you might catch a glimpse of  one of the signature structures like Epcot’s giant ball or Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom, but really it starts with their traffic signs.

Yup, traffic signs.  We all know what they look like, right?  Not Disney’s.  You know you have crossed the threshold when you see signs like the one to the right.20061127parade2jpg_1

The purple signs with mouse ear directional arrows are Disney’s way of signaling that a remarkable experience lies ahead.  An experience where the attention to detail will delight and surprise you.  Could they have used the standard street signs?  Sure.  But there was nothing special in doing it that way.

How do you signal your clients that something special is about to happen?  That you and your company are extraordinary?  What happens in your meetings or on your website or when your phone is answered that promises delights to come?  Or are you just using the standard street signs?

Marketing Lessons from Walt – The Series:

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Privilege (Marketing lessons from Walt)

November 26, 2006

This is the second in my eight-day series – Marketing Lessons from Walt.  As my family and I enjoy Walt Disney World, I’m going to capture some of the marketing genius that I believe began with Walt’s passion and has now grown into one of the world’s most powerful brands.

20061126parade1jpg I witnessed an amazing sales lesson today.  I watched the Red Raider Band from Uniontown, Pennsylvania proudly march in the Magic Kingdom‘s parade.  I am sure for some of them, it was the highlight of their band career to date.  But let’s look at what  happened, from a sales perspective.

  • The buyer (the school) contacted the seller (Disney) unsolicited and asked to buy.
  • The seller said "Maybe, but prove your worth."
  • The buyer received an acceptance letter and ticket order form in return.
  • The buyers (students) paid for their own airfare, Disney lodging, and entrance into the theme parks.
  • The buyers helped Disney provide entertainment to their guests.
  • The buyer bought Disney t-shirts, sweatshirts, ears and other items to commemorate their trip.
  • The buyer no doubt also brought family and friends…who also stayed on Disney property, bought Disney tickets (have to cam cord the performance!) and Disney souvenirs.

And I doubt they only stayed for the day of the performance.  Was that a cash register cha-ching I just heard?  And they were thrilled to be the buyer.  They’d do it again if they could.  (The Rose Bowl and many other events handle band appearances like this too, by the way.)

Think only Disney can turn buying into a privilege?  How about Harley Davidson?   How about the consultant who only takes on two new clients a year?

Of course, the bigger question is this.  How can you turn some aspect of doing business with you into a privilege that your potential consumers would pay a premium to have and be thrilled to do so?  (Don’t underestimate that part of it. If they aren’t thrilled to do it, then you’re just too expensive.)

Marketing Lessons from Walt – The Series:

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Surprise (Marketing lessons from Walt)

November 25, 2006

This is the first in my eight-day series – Marketing Lessons from Walt.  As my family and I enjoy Walt Disney World, I’m going to capture some of the marketing genius that I believe began with Walt’s passion and has now grown into one of the world’s most powerful brands.

We’re all familiar with the golden oldie – the giveaway.  Typically, we ask customers to sign up to win or create some sort of contest.  And then they wait to see if they won.  And in most cases, probably forgot they even signed up.

To tie in with their yearlong theme, "The Year of a Million Dreams," Disney has added a brilliant twist to the age-old favorite.                                                      
                                                They’ve added surprise.

Surprise Here’s their twist.  "Imagine walking through one of the Walt Disney World Theme Parks when a Cast Member taps you on the shoulder to offer you a dream come true. Right now, over a million extra-special dreams, some thought impossible, are being randomly awarded to people just like you."

It goes on to list prizes that range from not having to stand in a single line all day (more valuable than you can imagine) to traveling around the world, touring all of the Disney parks.

No little pieces of paper for your name and phone number.  No essay contest.  You just win because you’re there.  At that very moment.


Surprise is a story-inspiring emotion. It demands to be shared.

How could you add one of Walt’s favorite elements — surprise — to your marketing mix?

Marketing Lessons from Walt  – The Series:

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Are you really listening?

November 21, 2006

Innovation is certainly one of the buzzwords of the day.  Business leaders are wrestling with how to create a culture that inspires innovation and expecting their R&D team to create the new wonder product.  But, it’s not just R&D’s job.  Anyone can be innovative.

Patricia Seybold makes this point over and over in her blog Outside Innovation.  She contends, and I agree, that our clients/customers will innovate for us, if we let them.

How do you start?  I think you start by listening. Really listening.  I think your customers are giving you all the clues you need, if you’re tuned in.  Want an example?  Let’s take a product that’s in the mature phase of its marketing life cycle.  Toilet paper.  Really, once we got past the one versus two-ply, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in this product line.  Until recently.Images_11

You can now buy toilet paper with paw prints on each square. The paw prints lead to a puppy.  That’s how the kids know how much toilet paper to use.  If you have ever unclogged a toilet because your child used half a roll, you know how brilliant this is.

This was a problem that consumers of toilet paper have complained about for years.  It wasn’t enough to make us stop using the product but it was aggravating.  And then one day, voila, someone at Cottonelle was listening.  And looked at the product in a new light.  Hello jump in marketshare.

What are your customers grumbling about?  I’m not talking serious complaints, but minor irritants or frustrations. It probably seemed so small that you just dismissed it.  Or as in the Cottonelle’s case, it wasn’t really your product’s fault at all.  It was really user error. 

They didn’t dismiss it.  They listened.  And now they’re innovators.  It’s time for you to follow suit.  Pay more attention.  Listen more intently.  Wonder a little.

Ask yourself…what could you put paw prints on?

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Exceed my expectations, please

November 20, 2006

I was flipping through an old Business 2.0 magazine and an ad for Hampton Inn caught my eye.  It wasn’t anything special from a copy or design point of view.  So why did I notice it?

Because they surprised me.  Along the right side of the ad, they list some of their amenities.  A great bed.  Check.  Free high-speed internet access.  Check.  Complimentary breakfast.  Check.  Complimentary breakfast bag.  Whoa…back up a second.Images_6

Hampton Inn is demonstrating a very important marketing principle.   Yesterday’s WOWs become today’s expectations. 

Remember when high-speed internet and a free breakfast were innovations in hotel offerings?  But today, any hotel without free high-speed doesn’t even get on my short list.  It’s a given today.  Same with the free breakfast.  But many mornings, I am off and running and don’t have time to linger in the hotel long enough to even butter a bagel.  I just figure that’s my loss.

But Hampton Inn was paying attention to their guests.  They noticed how many of them were up and out.  And they created a solution.  As they probably did when they first added the internet access and free breakfast, they are now exceeding expectations with the breakfast bag.

Until tomorrow.  When yesterday’s WOWs become today’s expectations.

Read a great interview with Colleen Barrett, president of  Southwest Airlines about how they strive to exceed expectations.  (A search for this article lead me to a great blog Client Service Insights.)

You’re working hard to exceed your clients’ expectations, yes?  Let’s assume you’re successful.  Repeat it a few times and you are no longer exceeding their expectations.  You’ve just set the bar higher. 

Here’s the question for us as marketers.  Forget what you did yesterday or today.  How are you going to exceed your clients’ expectations tomorrow?

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Creativity Tip: Ask, ask, ask

November 17, 2006

Images2_3 In my day job, I have to be creative on demand.  As I am sure you can relate…some days, I don’t feel very creative.  I can’t wait until the muses arrive.  I need to be innovative, original and engaging. Now.


So I collect creativity triggers.  Games I can play, ways to twist the common into something fresh and brainwipes…ways to clear my head of all the expected, to make room for new ways of looking something.  If you too need this sort of creativity thumping now and then, I’m going to post some creativity tips every once in awhile.

Here’s one that usually serves me well. 

Be like a reporter.  Query the situation, problem, product that you’re needing to be creative about.  Not a who, what, where, how kind of an interview, but more of an in depth character study.  Do it out loud if you have to, but really dig in.  Ask probing questions.  Assume the persona of your interview subject to "feel" the answers.  I know it sounds a little silly but you’ll be amazed at the interesting insights.  Give it a spin and let me know how it works for you.

P.S.   If you want a big bundle of creativity, check out Roger von Oech‘s books, blog and tools.  My favorite is his Creative Whack Pack — a deck of cards with creative thinking strategies and tips.  You’ll love his stuff!

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Is that your hand in my pocket?

November 16, 2006

Images1_4 Identifying your pricing strategy is a business element that purists will say is more operations than marketing, but I have to tell you, they are wrong.  Pricing is all about marketing.  It is about perception.   It’s part of the customer experience.

Let me give you a concrete example.  But first, a confession.

I am annoyed.  I’m actually beyond annoyed.  I am ticked.  And feeling taken advantage of. If you ever have a client express those feelings about your prices, heed the warning.   Bad things happen when you have a customer feeling that way.  This is what the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) will tell you is called bad buzz.  Watch it in action.

I’ve had a business relationship with an Iowa based bank, Bankers Trust, for several years.  For the past few years, I had a letter of credit with them.  I paid an annual fee of around $300.  I no longer need the letter of credit.  The annual renewal is January 1st, so I wanted to cancel it before I incurred the annual fee.  I got the cancellation confirmation letter today.  With a bill for $115!  When I e-mailed them to inquire why I was paying a fee, since I was specifically closing it to avoid the fee – they said:

“To cancel the letter of credit requires action on our part.  We charge the final fee of $115.00 to cover the cost of issuing the letter, updating our records, following up on retrieving the original after it matures and the cost of the courier fee. “

I’m stuck.  I have no need for the product.  There is no “early cancellation penalty” and yet, even though I paid for the privilege of having the letter of credit, now I am paying for the privilege of NOT having it?

Ridiculous.  And demonstrating a complete lack of customer awareness.  Their pricing strategy is about them, not me.  And they have lost a customer over it.  Worse for them…they have aggravated a blogger, community volunteer, and business owner who is going to tell this story over and over.

The dumb part of this is that it’s an easy fix.  No customer is going to be happy about being double-dipped.  So why not build the cancellation fee into the first year’s annual cost of having the letter of credit?  Call it initial/closing administrative costs and be done with it.

As with most things, it’s not what you say/do, it’s how you say or do that has impact.

Read more about how pricing = marketing at BizMord Search and Marketing Blog.   And weigh in on this:  What inadvertent impact might your pricing have on clients? 

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Hey Scrooge, is that you?

November 15, 2006

Images1_3 Every year it seems to get earlier and earlier.  This year, some of the major marketers launched their holiday campaign before Halloween.  They argue that over 40% of us begin our shopping by then, so why shouldn’t they be out there.  Maybe they’re right.

Advertising Age (a trade pub for the advertising industry) is doing a survey this week.  I thought we’d borrow their question.

Do you think consumers will be resentful of retailers and other marketers that begin Christmas advertising before the end of October or even before Thanksgiving?

Share your thoughts here and also…if you are a marketer, do you market any differently during a holiday season?  Are you a President’s Day special kind of business?  What do you think of that as an advertising strategy?

(After we vote, I’ll tell you what the Ad Age readers have said.)

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Hey Goliath, I think you’re going down!

November 13, 2006

David and Goliath.  A pretty famous tale.  Little guy takes on the big guy.  Logic tells us the big guy should win.  But, instead, he goes down.

It’s hard to imagine a bigger Goliath than Microsoft.  They usually win the fight.  But this time, I think they’re going to go down.Images_9

This week, Microsoft releases Zune, their answer to the iPod.  Their beige answer to the iPod.  Over at the True Talk Blog, Tom Guarriello great job of comparing the two products.

Here’s the problem.  Microsoft’s size begot a dash of arrogance and they made a classic marketing mistake.  They forgot to ask the customer.  In fact, they forgot all about the customer.

  • People buy the iPod because its cool.  Cool colors.  Cool online store.  Cool features. 
  • People buy the iPod because its convenient.  Convenient to use.  Convenient to find accessories.  Convenient access to music, movies, TV shows and music videos.
  • People have invested a significant amount of money in iTunes downloads and iPod accessories.  They are not likely to switch.  They are likely to add to their iPod collection with either an updated version (so they can move all their files) or more iPod stuff.

Keep in mind the #1 target for mp3 players like Zune and the iPod are the tweens and the teens.   They are all about cool and fitting in.  That trumps functionality and screen resolution any day.  And they are mortified if they appear to be "posers" or people are trying to be cool, but didn’t quite make it.  I suspect Zune owners will be viewed as iPod owner wannabes.

The smart strategy for Microsoft would have been to either out cool and out convenience the iPod.  But they aren’t doing either.  They are counting on the holiday advertising push and the wifi feature (you can share music…but it evaporates after a few plays/days) to topple the iPod.

I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Tomorrow, more on why not.

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