Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How is Your Customer Service?

In an economic time, when it is now more crucial than ever to set yourself apart from the competition, businesses often look at many different ways to get noticed. Often, leaders forget that one of the simplest ways to stand out is to have exemplary customer service. Great customer service is remembered for a long time and the story is told to many people over and over again. It may cost you a couple of dollars at the moment, but this small investment will more than pay for itself.

I remember many years ago my wife and I took my eldest son on his first trip to Disneyland. We lived in Northern California at the time, so it was just a short drive down to Anaheim. We decided to splurge and stay at the Disneyland Hotel.

In the middle of the night, on the second night of our stay, my son got sick and began running a very dangerously high temperature. We called the front desk to ask if they had a physician or nurse on staff to find out what our local options were to get him checked out. They did have someone on staff and as soon as they found out what the temperature was they went into action.

What happened next is a lesson for everyone in customer service. The nurse told us that within 15 minutes an EMT would knock on our door to take us to Anaheim Children's Hospital....that knock came in 5 minutes. The EMT took us to an express elevator where they had an ambulance waiting with a very Disney interior decor to help soothe any child. They then called ahead to the hospital to have a doctor waiting for us.

When we arrived at the emergency room, we went past the waiting area and proceeded directly to a room. When the doctor walked in we were greeted by name and then got down to business. We figured out what was going on and then we went to leave the hospital to grab a taxi back to the hotel. However, the EMT was there to greet us and drive us to an all night pharmacy and then back to the Disney properties. From the time we left our hotel room to our return was only 3 hours. The entire cost for everything...nothing. Disney considered it simple function of taking care of their guests.

When I went back to Disneyland for future visits, do you think I ever stayed at any of the cheaper properties next door? Disneyland's actions made me a guest for life...and trust me we went back many times. It has been years since this event happened, but I can tell you I have repeated this story many, many times a year to people. Whenever I was asked for a recommendation of where to stay when going to Disneyland, I only gave one answer...the Disneyland Resort Properties. Disney has probably made 100 times the amount they spent to take care of me just on my recommendations and retelling of this story.

In effect, I have become a living commercial for Disneyland Resort Properties. Now, most businesses don't have the financial resources to go to the extent that I experienced. However, you can set up your culture and train your staff to be empowered to go above and beyond to take care of a customer and create memorable moment.

When you create a memorable moment for a customer, you have not only created a customer for life, but this person will become your personal billboard. Plus, there is no better way to say Thank You to a customer than giving them great service every day and with every experience they have with you.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Translating the Language of Search

Ever wonder what all those online search marketing terms mean? Here's a quick lesson.
Have a great weekend!

Those of us who have been in this industry for a while are accustomed to throwing around industry-specific abbreviations and jargon. When I talk about search, I use industry terminology without even thinking about it -- until recently when a client stopped me and said, "Whoa, back up. You lost me."

For example:
"The Google dance has struck again and the SE algorithm has changed, so we might want to evaluate our linking strategies.

"Translation: Google has once again changed how it ranks sites. This might have an impact on our current search engine positioning, so we might want to explore other ways to get other sites to link to ours.

"We will deliver an SEM/SEO report, focusing on your organic and sponsored rankings, CTRs, CPCs and conversions.

"Translation: We will prepare a report on our search engine marketing and search engine optimization activities, specifically looking at where your site ranks in both the paid and unpaid search engine results, the click-through rate on our listings, the average price we're paying for a click, and the number of people who completed our desired action when they came to the site.

If you knew right off the bat what those two sentences meant without the translation, you're welcome to sign off. You know your search definitions. But if you had to stop and think for a minute, thinking about the abbreviations, then this column may be for you.

Here I have compiled a list of some of the most frequently used search industry terminology, jargon, abbreviations, and so on and simplified definitions:

Conversion: When a user completes a predefined desired action on your Web site (e.g., purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, registering for more information, etc.).

CPC: Cost per click is defined as the price you pay when someone clicks on your sponsored listing/paid search ad.

CTR: Click-through rate is the number of clicks divided by the number of ad impressions/views. It's the rate at which people see your ad and actually click on it.
Inbound links: Also know as external links, which occurs when other sites link to your site. It's generally accepted that a big factor in search engine algorithms (see below) is the number and quality of inbound links pointing to your site.

Keyword: A word or phrase that is typed into a search engine. Site owners typically want their sites to be visible in the search engines for specific keywords that relate to their product or service.

Link building: Since inbound (external) links influence a site's organic rankings (see below), many site owners will undertake the process of link building. This can consist of explicitly asking other sites to link to them, or encouraging inbound links by creating valuable content or tools, posting product reviews or forum comments on other Web sites, or partnering with relevant sites.

Organic ranking: The position that your Web site appears in the unpaid ("editorial") listings of the search engine results, which typically take up the majority of the page.

PPC: Pay per click typically refers to paid search marketing, where you pay for your ad to appear in the sponsored listings of the search engine results.

Quality score: The rating assigned by Google and other engines to keywords within a paid search account. The QS is calculated by taking into account maximum bid and relevancy (how closely your ad is targeted to the query; whether your landing page contains relevant information to the query).

SE: Search engine.

Search engine algorithm: A complex formula that search engines use to compute how to rank site A over sites B to Z. Apparently they are made up of thousands of unique factors, but we will likely never truly know since SEs make a habit of not disclosing details.

Search engine submission: A sort of archaic practice of submitting your site to the search engines for indexing. It was thought that this could speed up the time of search engines initially indexing, then returning to, your site. The traditional means of doing this is no longer widely practiced, but programs like Google Webmaster Tools enable site owners to make their sites more visible to Google and keep the engine up to date when changes are made.

SEM: Search engine marketing. This is where it gets tricky: sometimes this term is used mean both paid and unpaid search marketing, but sometimes it's used to mean only the paid activities. Industry organization SEMPO, uses "SEM" as the umbrella term. I'll let you decide how to use it.

SEO: Search engine optimization involves undertaking activities to make your site rank higher in the search engine results. Often it involves attempting to intuit how search engines rank sites and applying industry best practices.

SERP: Search engine results page, which is the page that comes up after you perform a query in a search engine.

Sponsored listings/ads: The text ads that typically appear along the periphery of the SERP (see above), such as along the top and the right hand side. Advertisers determine which terms they want their ads to appear for and compete with other advertisers to achieve top positioning.

I could go on, but this should give you a quick overview of some commonly used vernacular. That said, there are a number of lists out that provide a comprehensive compendium of search marketing terms. Check out SEMPO's Search Engine Optimization & Marketing Glossary for a well-rounded glossary of terms used in both search and Internet marketing.

(source: The ClickZ Network, Julie Batten, November 10, 2008)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Extinction Threatens Yellow-Pages Publishers

Out of all the marketing vehicles out there, the Yellow-Pages is the least effective way to build a brand or market your business - however does tend to be one of the most expensive. In today's technology savvy world, a forty pound book seems a bit archiac - and a poor use of our trees. Below is an interesting article that discusses the state of the business of phone books...something to take into consideration as you are reviewing your marketing budgets for 2009.

The yellow-pages industry is running out of lifelines.

In recent years, as its customers migrated to the Web -- flocking to sites like Google -- the telephone-directory business followed, hoping the Internet would be its salvation. Bloomberg News/Landov Idearc publishes phone books for Verizon.

But that strategy hasn't panned out. Now, the economic downturn is sending the already ailing business into a tailspin.

The audience for online yellow pages remains relatively small, and traffic growth is slowing. So many directory services are vying for the ad dollars of local businesses that no single site has an authoritative roster.

Meanwhile, ad dollars are drying up as small businesses -- the industry's bread and butter -- find it harder to pay bills or have cut their spending sharply.

Print and online ad spending on yellow pages will plummet 6.3% next year, more than double the rate of decline expected for broadcast TV, according to forecasts by Wachovia analyst John Janedis. Within the next four years, ad spending will fall 39% in print directories alone -- the steepest projected decline across all local-media categories, according to media-research firm Borrell Associates.

"It's pretty darn hard out there for everybody, and those that have less staying power, it just looks like it's going to be a difficult environment to be able to hang on in the long term," said Dave Swanson, chief executive of R.H. Donnelley, a Cary, N.C., yellow-pages publisher, during a conference call on the company's third-quarter earnings.

Facing the real prospect of extinction, the publishers, many of which have considerable debt, have been slashing jobs, scrapping dividends and exiting unprofitable markets. Shares of two of the biggest publishers, R.H. Donnelley and Idearc, have plummeted 99% in the past year.

"The main pure-play companies do not have capital structures that would enable them to endure perpetual high-single-digit or double-digit declines in cash flow and remain viable entities or solvent entities over time," says Mike Simonton, an analyst with Fitch Ratings.

Yellow-pages publishers have spent the past several years attempting to reinvent themselves, launching a slew of digital offerings for advertisers, and retraining their sales forces to sell digital ads alongside print ads.

But Internet revenues remain anemic. At less than 10%, online-ad dollars make up only a modest portion of total revenues and aren't growing fast enough to offset steep declines on the print side, says Mr. Simonton.

Analysts say yellow-pages sales teams face an inherent conflict. While they are pressured to sell both print and online ads, Internet ads are often a third of the price of the print product. The top priority for the sales teams often is to sell the print book first, then sell the digital products.

Even if online revenues were growing at a faster clip, analysts are cautious about the prospects of online-only directories. Yellow-pages ads are the only form of advertising many small businesses buy, and the online ads are typically sold in conjunction with print listings, Mr. Simonton says. That means that if businesses aren't buying the print ad, then the online ad disappears too.

In a last-ditch attempt to succeed online, some publishers have struck ad-sale partnerships with Internet companies like Google. White Directory Publishers, which publishes directories in 90 small to medium-size markets, says it is often more effective for small businesses to have a presence on Google than on a directory Web site. But many small- to medium-size businesses don't have the expertise or time to create effective Web sites or buy and track search ads, so White Directory is offering to do it for them.

"They all believe they have the URL and the Web site that's going to win," Jeff Folckemer, chief operating officer and chief executive-designate of White Directory, part of Hearst Corp., says of the directory companies. "Our philosophy immediately was to go right to the big guys."

Mr. Simonton cautions, however, that even if publishers survive, any growth they achieved since the last downtown, in 2001, will be short-lived. "That extra growth coming from new businesses are the first to fold in a downturn. You basically give back in one downturn what took seven years to grow."

(source: Wall Street Journal Online, 11/17/08)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Banks Targeting Money-Conscious Consumers

SunTrust Banks Targets Money-Conscious Consumers

SunTrust Banks this weekend unveiled a new campaign with the tagline, "Live Solid. Bank Solid," which speaks to the state-of-mind of wary consumers affected by a slumping economy.

The effort, via lead agency Mullen, Winston-Salem, N.C., focuses on the idea that consumers are becoming smarter about their finances and looking for banks that offer "confidence, security and firm footing," per SunTrust.

TV spots broke during NBC's Sunday Night Football. Radio, print, and online ads also support. SunTrust, Atlanta, said it will continue advertising on prime time TV through 2009.

"We believe the new campaign will resonate with our clients and American consumers, especially in our current economic climate," said Rilla Delorier, SunTrust CMO. "The new SunTrust brand . . . provides the assurance that SunTrust is their financial partner as they build the foundation for their financial futures."

While timely given the recent meltdown on Wall Street, the bank claims its new campaign was underway months before and emerged following internal research that found the majority of consumers would rather spend "wisely" than spend "freely." The new tagline is meant to reflect those findings. SunTrust's old tagline was: "Seeing Beyond Money."

SunTrust spent $26 million on U.S. advertising last year (excluding online), per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, and $21 million through September of this year.

(Source: BrandWeek, 11/17/08)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chief Marketing Officers See Black Friday, Cyber Monday Falling Flat

Do you have a way to incorporate Gift Cards into your sales mix?

by Karl Greenberg, Monday, Nov 17, 2008 4:16 PM ET

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday--which both occur post-Thanksgiving--have experienced year-over-year sales growth in the past, they will not be doing so this time around, according to chief marketing officers at retail companies. The marketers were surveyed as part of accounting and consulting firm BDO Seidman's "Retail Compass," which queries 100 CMOs in retail firms with at least $100 million in yearly revenue.

Last year, Black Friday saw 8.3% sales growth and Cyber Monday had 21%. This year, retail CMOs are predicting essentially flat sales for those days.

Not surprising is the surveyed CMOs' grim outlook for overall holiday sales, which they see dropping by an average of 2.7%.

What sales gains there may be will come from gift cards, the Web and consumer electronics. The marketing executives surveyed by BDO Seidman expect Internet sales and gift card sales to improve 8% and 5.1%, respectively.

Forty-four percent of surveyed marketers predicted that in-store purchases would drive gift card sales this season. Smaller percentages of marketers predicted that online purchases and third-party vendors (such as kiosks and grocery stores) will drive the most gift card sales.

Ted Vaughan, a partner in the Retail and Consumer Product Practice at BDO Seidman, says that while the year is dismal, "it is important to remember that there are some bright spots on the horizon. There is still enormous growth potential in Internet sales, which remains a fairly new phenomenon. Further, gift cards will be popular this year because they allow the end user to decide on the gift based on their personal needs."

Forty-nine percent of those surveyed said consumer electronics will perform the best versus home goods, toys, lifestyle goods such as books and sporting equipment, apparel and jewelry.

And half of retailers surveyed said they expect Internet sales to increase this holiday season, while 38% expect online sales to stay the same.

Vaughan says holiday sales can make up 35% to 40% of annual sales.

He also says the gift card and Internet increases are a bit misleading. "There was an uptick in gift card sales and Internet sales last year, so the increase this year is a continuation of that trend, but even that trend is slowing down compared to last year and the year before," he says.

"The plus is that if you sell gift cards, the general tendency for someone who redeems the cards is to buy more than the amount on the card."

For Internet sales, the positive for retailers is that when consumers come online looking for a particular product "the Internet makes it so easy to browse; they will be able to find other products they may not have had in mind."
Karl Greenberg can be reached at

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ten Reasons To Keep Advertising in a Tough Economy

Ten great reasons to keep advertising in a tough economy!

1. Dear Client: As your customers cut back on their advertising, your Advertising Voice is multiplied. When your clients do less, aggressive advertising works even better.

2. The closings of scores of national retailers makes it easier for a local retailer's voice to be heard. Here's a sample of national chains closing some of their stores: Zale's closing 105 stores, Sprint/Nextel-125, Disney-98, Gap-85, Linens-N-Things-120. There there are those who've shut down completely. Examples: CompUSA, Footlocker, KB Toys, Levitz, Hollywood Video, Pier 1, Wickes Furniture - all gone. Kaput.

3. Cutting Advertising is like amputating in order to get rid of an itch, or I'm going to quit selling because they'll probably say No anyhow. Successful companies consider their ad budget a fixed expense. When the number of incoming customers decreases - this isn't the right time to stop inviting them back.

4. Don't Cut Your Air Supply. Advertising helped get the business where it is - don't stop now. The reason you have customers is that someone heard your message. And you're going to abandon that?

5. When you stop advertising, your best customers become someone else's prospects. People go where they're invited. Your competitors are inviting your customers.

6. Your customers will have more confidence that you're THERE. We have confidence in the Post Office and the fire department. We perceive that they'll be there when we need them. Same with you. That's one of the reasons you have a steady return customers.

7. Consumers don't stop buying; they're just more choosey and looking for value. Good deals.

8. You know what consumers are looking for. Super-Sizing works now. Good Value works better than ever.

9. Add the new online tools we can offer, at a comparatively low cost, offer even more wallop for their dollar. Online products like Channels, coupons, streaming and texting are all NTR Heaven - that show accountable results and excellent ROI.

10. Think of what Advertising says to employees - Confidence. Ask for help from your employees to make the ad circle complete. Let them know about every offer. Let them HELP INVENT new offers. It's a time of opportunity.

(source: Jim Taszarek,

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Moms Shape New Culture by Cutting Back

Reviewing your marketing plans for 2009? You better factor in how those plans appeal to moms!

Moms Shape New Culture by Cutting Back

According to a recent report by the allen & gerritsen (a&g) audience intelligence department, 80% of online mothers in the US say most Americans have been encouraged to overextend themselves, while 58% think the average American is too greedy.

Because moms manage the household (which means their behaviors drastically impact sales) and they teach and enforce family values (which means they are as influential in shaping our culture as is the media), a&g surveyed moms to understand just how the economy is affecting their purchase behaviors and economic outlook. The study reveals that most moms believe that cultural trends that demonstrate a belief that Americans deserve to regularly indulge, contributed to the financial crisis we are in.

But, says the report, the pendulum has begun to swing the other way, with moms taking the lead. In this countercultural trend, moms see themselves as shunning greed and are putting family needs before their own.

Moms are looking for ways to rein in their household finances, with 65% of moms surveyed eliminating purchases that are not absolutely necessary, and 52% cutting back in general. 71% say they have made more sacrifices this year than last.

Household Finance Changes Moms Made in 2008
Change % of Respondents (multiple response OK)
New source of income 29%
Cut back spending 52%
Eliminated unnecessaries 65%
No changes 12%
Source: Allen & Gerritson, October 2008

Though 71% of moms report they have made more sacrifices this year than last, childcare and medical needs will not be compromised. More of these moms blame the government (not enough oversight or regulation) for the economic crisis than blame the banks (32% vs. 16%).

Parties That Moms Feel Responsible for Collapse of Financial Institutions
Responsible Party % of Respondents
Government 32%
Everyone 27%
Banks 16%
Individual borrowers 6%
Corporations 6%
Wall Street 3%
No one 3%
Investors 1%
All other 7%
Source: Allen & Gerritson, October 2008

In addition:
* 94% of moms say it is more important to seek regular medical care for their families than themselves.
* 62% of moms say they are less greedy than the American average.
* 51% of moms say don't see the economic situation improving within the next year.

Catherine Kolodij, VP, audience intelligence director at a&g, summarizes by saying "For the last few years, there have been a number of cultural trends that demonstrate the idea that Americans deserve to indulge, buying bigger homes and better cars and other luxuries. Most moms believe this culture contributed to the financial crisis we are in... "

Please visit allen & gerritsen here to obtain the complete PDF file, including charts.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

5 Tips For Getting Noticed Online

1. Get your Web site listed on major search engines, such as Google or Yahoo! Two sites, Search Engine Watch at and the Web Marketing Info Center at, offer guidance.

2. Join a “banner exchange,” and trade advertising banners with other Web sites. Look under “banner exchange” on search engines.

3. Visit sites similar to or related to yours and offer to exchange links with them.

4. Write useful articles for other sites and include your Web address.

5. Get more online marketing help from such sites as, and

(Source: SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business.")

Monday, November 10, 2008

Snapshot of Media Plans & Budgets For 2009

At the "Masters of Marketing" Conference by the Association of National Advertisers recently, 1,200 client-side marketers, media and creative agencies and others, were polled via handheld devices about their marketing mix, budgets, plans, and tactics throughout the event. The results are shown here:

Adjustment to current marketing and media plans to account for the recent downturn in the financial markets:

* 33% say spending will be reduced
* 33% say spending will be constant / marketing mix will be reallocated
* 27% expect to spend more
* 8% will keep everything status quo

CEO view of marketing efforts with respect to growth:
* 56% think of brand-building as an investment
* 21% think it's an unaccountable but necessary expense
* 15% are not sure
* 8% consider it an unnecessary expense

Preferred social media site for driving brand growth:
* 32% say none
* 20% say YouTube
* 18% facebook
* 12% like them all
* 10% say LinkedIn
* 6% MySpace
* 3% Twitter

Plans for Marketing expense in 2009 vs. 2008:
* 26% plan to increase spending more than 10%
* 13% plan to increase spending less than 10%
* 28% will hold stable
* 14% will decrease spending less than 10%
* 19% will decrease spending more than 10%

The largest branding discipline offering opportunity for growth:
* 17% choose traditional 30-second spots
* 7% like one page advertisements in a newspaper/magazine
* 16% pick web advertising
* 28% choose social media integration
* 7% feel direct Marketing
* 19% think grassroots, viral public relations
* 5% like radio

Company's current measurement method of brand growth:
* 70% say sales and net income
* 15% use third party brand equity valuations
* 9% think shareholder value
* 4% measure by household penetration
* 3% say company culture

(Source: Association of National Advertisers, October 2008)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What Marketers Can Learn From Obama's Campaign

No matter what your political views are, you have to admit that Barack Obama ran a very focased campaign. Businesses and marketing professionals can learn about his approach that focused on three key areas 1) Simplicity - his message was "Change" 2) Consistency 3) Relevance. No matter what happened, he kept to his message.

What Marketers Can Learn From Obama's Campaign
Change -- and Positioning -- You Can Believe in
By Al Ries , Advertising Age
Published: November 05, 2008

Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in history as the biggest day ever in the history of marketing.

Take a relatively unknown man. Younger than all of his opponents. Black. With a bad-sounding name. Consider his first opponent: the best-known woman in America, connected to one of the most successful politicians in history. Then consider his second opponent: a well-known war hero with a long, distinguished record as a U.S. senator.

It didn't matter. Barack Obama had a better marketing strategy than either of them. "Change."

Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels was the master of the "big lie." According to Goebbels, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

The opposite of that strategy is the "big truth." If you tell the truth often enough and keep repeating it, the truth gets bigger and bigger, creating an aura of legitimacy and authenticity.

What word did Hillary Clinton own? First she tried "experience." When she saw the progress Mr. Obama was making, she shifted to "Countdown to change." Then when the critics pointed out her me-too approach, she shifted to "Solutions for America."

What word is associated with Ms. Clinton today? I don't know, do you?

Then there's John McCain. An Oct. 26 cover story in The New York Times Magazine was titled "The Making (and Remaking and Remaking) of the Candidate." The visual listed some of the labels the candidate was associated with: "Conservative. Maverick. Hero. Straight talker. Commander. Bipartisan conciliator. Experienced leader. Patriot." Subhead: "When a Campaign Can't Settle on a Central Narrative, Does It Imperil Its Protagonist?"

Actually, Mr. McCain did settle on a slogan, "Country first," but it was way too late in the campaign and it was a slogan that had little relevance to the average voter.

Tactically, both Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain focused their messages on "I can do change better than my opponent can do change."

"Better" never works in marketing. The only thing that works in marketing is "different." When you're different, you can pre-empt the concept in consumers' minds so your competitors can never take it away from you.

Look at what "driving" has done for BMW. Are there vehicles that are more fun to drive than BMWs? Probably, but it doesn't matter. BMW has pre-empted the "driving" position in the mind.

The sad fact is that there are only a few dozen brands that own a word in the mind and most of them don't even use their words as slogans. Mercedes-Benz owns "prestige," but doesn't use the word as a slogan. Toyota owns "reliability," but doesn't use the word as a slogan. Coca-Cola owns "the real thing," but doesn't use the words as a slogan. Pepsi-Cola owns "Pepsi generation," but doesn't use the words as a slogan.

As a matter of fact, most brands follow the Pepsi pattern. Every time they get a new CMO or a new advertising agency, they change the slogan. Since 1975, BMW has used one slogan: "The ultimate driving machine." Since 1975, Pepsi-Cola has used these advertising slogans:
1975: "For those who think young."
1978: "Have a Pepsi day."
1980: "Catch that Pepsi spirit."
1982: "Pepsi's got your taste for life."
1983: "Pepsi now."
1984: "The choice of a new generation."
1989: "A generation ahead."
1990: "Pepsi: The choice of a new generation."
1992: "Gotta have it."
1993: "Be young. Have fun. Drink Pepsi."
1995: "Nothing else is a Pepsi."
2002: "Generation next."
2003: "Think young. Drink young."
2004: "It's the cola."

Thirty-three years ago when the "Ultimate driving machine" campaign started, BMW was the 11th-largest-selling European imported vehicle in the U.S. market. Today it's No. 1.

Thirty-three years ago, Pepsi-Cola was the No. 2-selling cola in the U.S. market. Today, many advertising slogans later, it's still No. 2.

The average Pepsi-Cola advertising slogan lasts just two years and two months. The average chief marketing officer lasts just two years and two months. The average corporate advertising campaign in BusinessWeek lasts just two years and six months.

The Obama campaign has a lot to teach the advertising community.

1. Simplicity. About 70% of the population thinks the country is going in the wrong direction, hence Obama's focus on the word "change." Why didn't talented politicians like Ms. Clinton and John Edwards consider using this concept?

Based on my experience, in the boardrooms of corporate America "change" is an idea that is too simple to sell. Corporate executives are looking for advertising concepts that are "clever." For all the money being spent, corporate executives want something they couldn't have thought of themselves. Hopefully, something exceedingly clever.

Here is a sampling of slogans from a recent issue of BusinessWeek:
* Chicago Graduate School of Business: "Triumph in your moment of truth."
* Darden School of Business: "High touch. High tone. High energy."
* "Your future is looking up."
* Zurich: "Because change happenz."
* CDW: "The right technology. Right away."
* Hitachi: "Inspire the next."
* NEC: "Empowered by innovation."
* Deutsche Bank: "A passion to perform."
* SKF: "The power of knowledge engineering."

Some of these slogans might be clever, some might be inspiring and some might be descriptive of the company's product line, but none will ever drive the company's business in the way that "change" drove the Obama campaign. They're not simple enough.

2. Consistency. What's wrong with 90% of all advertising? Companies try to "communicate" when they should be trying to "position."

Mr. Obama's objective was not to communicate the fact that he was an agent of change. In today's environment, every politician running for the country's highest office was presenting him or herself as an agent of change. What Mr. Obama actually did was to repeat the "change" message over and over again, so that potential voters identified Mr. Obama with the concept. In other words, he owns the "change" idea in voters' minds.

In today's overcommunicated society, it takes endless repetition to achieve this effect. For a typical consumer brand, that might mean years and years of advertising and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Most companies don't have the money, don't have the patience and don't have the vision to achieve what Mr. Obama did. They jerk from one message to another, hoping for a magic bullet that will energize their brands. That doesn't work today. That is especially ineffective for a politician because it creates an aura of vacillation and indecisiveness, fatal qualities for someone looking to move up the political ladder.

The only thing that works today is the BMW approach. Consistency, consistency, consistency -- over decades, if not longer.

But not with a dull slogan. Hitachi has been "inspiring the next" for as long as I can remember, but with little success.

Effective slogans needs to be simple and grounded in reality. What next has Hitachi ever inspired? Red ink, maybe. In the past 10 years, Hitachi has had sales of $786.9 billion and managed to lose $5.1 billion. When you put your corporate name on everything, as Hitachi does, it's difficult to make money because it's difficult to make the brand stand for anything.

3. Relevance. "If you're losing the battle, shift the battlefield" is an old military axiom that applies equally as well to marketing. By his relentless focus on change, Mr. Obama shifted the political battlefield. He forced his opponents to devote much of their campaign time discussing changes they proposed for the country. And how their changes would differ from the changes that he proposed.

All the talk about "change" distracted both Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain from talking about their strengths: their track records, their experience and their relationships with world leaders.

As you probably know, Mr. Obama was selected as Advertising Age's Marketer of the Year by the executives attending the Association of National Advertisers' annual conference in Orlando last month. But one wonders if these CMOs are getting the message.

As one marketing executive said: "I look at it as something that we can all learn from as marketers. To see what he's done, to be able to create a social network and do it in a way where it's created the tools to let people get engaged very easily. It's very easy for people to participate."

Whatever happened to "change"?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

5 Tips on What Employees Want from You as a Leader

Today, our country moves forward with the process of transitioning to a new leader. As a nation, we will be asking a great deal of our new leader to be. Think about your employees and what they want from you. Here are five tips to consider.

5 Tips on What Employees Want from You as a Leader

1. Employees want to trust you and you to trust them. Begin by being trustworthy and extending trust.

2. Employees want good two-way communication. Begin by being a good listener.

3. Employees want to be challenged. Set forth your vision and goals clearly and then let your workers exercise their creativity and authority in meeting your goals.

4. Employees want accountability. Not only should you hold them accountable for their own performance but you should measure your own performance as well.

5. Employees want recognition. Offer praise and express appreciation at every opportunity.

(Source:SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business." )

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Now Is The Time To Build Relationship With Your Customers

Now Is The Time To Build Relationships With Your Customers
by Jere Doyle , Friday, October 31, 2008

CONSUMERS AND BUSINESSES ARE TIGHTENING their belts and their budgets, but brand marketers need to look at today's recession economy as an opportunity. Now is the ideal time to ramp up your marketing efforts and build stronger relationships with your customers.

Direct marketing approaches have proved highly effective in all kinds of economies -- but especially during a recession. A recent BusinessWeek article provides examples of some of the most successful brand campaigns in the past sixty years -- all of them conducted in a down economy. Also, during economic downturns consumers are more likely to forego brand loyalty for cost or value savings. That gives you two more good reasons to market more aggressively. First, protect your brand and hold onto your existing customers by letting them know you value them and you offer the best value. Secondly, entice customers to change from competitors to your brand and products just when the competition is cutting back and going quiet on customer retention and loyalty efforts.

So instead of hunkering down and slashing marketing budgets, brand marketers should jump on the opportunity to build and strengthen their online relationships with consumers. Many brand marketers are doing this through online lead generation and email marketing

Online lead generation can help consumer brand marketers reach the right consumers wherever they may be online -- whether on a news site, a health and nutrition portal, or an online community for new and expectant parents -- and begin the process of opting-in to an advertisers in-house email list. Building and maintaining a strong in-house list of qualified consumers who request to be marketed to, and sending these consumers relevant email campaigns, is the most effective marketing tactic to reach your customers. Research shows that consumers want information, ads and offers from their favorite brands and products, and they will respond to them

As consumers do more research online during tough economic times, they also spend more time researching and comparing brands and prices. In a Prospectiv poll conducted earlier this year, 84% said they had changed their shopping habits due to concerns about recession. In further clues to consumer behavior in this economic downturn:
• 66% are logging more hours online researching and comparing brands and prices
• 74% would welcome more online offers, coupons and e-newsletters from their favorite brands and products
• 60% are more likely to sign up/join a Web site or online community that offers recipes, healthy meal ideas, cooking tips and savings they can use at home

Another consumer poll reveals that even with the recent decline in fuel prices, consumers are still concerned about the economy and are increasing their use of coupons -- especially for savings on everyday grocery products.

Seventy-two percent surveyed say they are using more coupons to make their money go further than they did six months ago (since March 2008). The majority polled (75%) said that economic concerns are their main reason for using more coupons. Eighty-one percent said they are most interested in coupons for grocery items (food and household products).

Not only are consumers under financial pressure doing more research online, comparing brands and prices and using more coupons, consumers are also considering switching from favored brands to generics to save money. Brand marketers must find ways to engage consumers online, using direct-response interactive marketing to reinforce the value of brand.

Marketers should consider countering the effects of the downturn by stepping up programs that build strong relationships with consumers who have exhibited interest in their goods and services. For instance, an in-house opt-in email newsletter list. The most important ingredients of effective email campaigns to your in-house email list are quality and relevance. Consumers under financial pressure are focused on purchasing the necessities, and relevance is key. Lead-generation campaigns that build your own opt-in email lists and produce consumers who are interested in your product and brand are particularly useful because they can collect data points about consumers that make it easy for marketers to ensure relevance. Ask consumers what they want and have them give you important information about themselves that will allow you to email them content that is relevant.

Lead-generation best practices also need to be a focus for brand marketers in a down economy. Best practices ensure high quality leads and maintain a respectful relationship with consumers to build trust and discourage abuse of consumer privacy.

The economy may be down but now is not the time to sit back and wait for things to improve. Marketers need to seize the opportunity to build their brands and strengthen their relationships with consumers. A best practices online lead generation program is one of the most effective ways to get a leg up on the competition, especially during an economic downturn.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Recession-Proofing Your Brand

Now more than ever, it is critically important to think about your brand - both in the short term and long term. This article has 3 very important points to keep in mind as you are taking a look at your current business plan.

We all know that the current economic situation is a heavy load on the shoulders of the U.S. consumer. Night after night, the evening news bombards us with even more bad news, making everyone wonder how much worse it can really get. Consumers are making tough choices that affect almost every spending category from the essential (food, gas) to the discretionary (clothing, entertainment).

Historically, most companies do one of two things during a recession: cut spending and do only the bare minimum until the economy bounces back, or move full steam ahead with their marketing plans, taking advantage of the ability to build or strengthen their brands while the competition is weak. Unfortunately, for those of us in the marketing business, too many companies go with option No. 1 and dramatically cut spending. But the irony in this approach is that it can end up damaging a company's most valuable asset: the brand.

When you choose to cut marketing, you put your brand at risk, increasing the likelihood that your brand will lose relevance to your target audience and your retail partners. During a recession, consumers have to make the hard decision of determining whether their preferred brand is worth paying more for. If the brand is truly perceived as a better or even a safer choice, then consumers remain loyal.

But if the brand loses relevance, then there is the risk that consumers will leave the brand for lower-priced competitors. Retailers also make hard choices about the brands they continue to promote with their limited funds. The brands that get the greater share of co-op dollars are the ones that either have the power to drive consumers into the store or warrant a price premium.

The key to making your brand survive--and dare I say even thrive--during a recession is to outthink your competition. Following are three strategies to recession-proof your brand.

First, redefine what value means. Value is not just about having the lowest price. There are many attributes of a brand that can be used to measure its value to a consumer. Mission Foods makes tortillas, wraps, taco shells and chips. But it has recognized that it's not in the food business; rather, it is in the meal solutions business. It delivers value to hungry families, not by just being priced right but by giving families the tools they need to save time in the kitchen. By providing recipes, cooking tips, and shortcuts, Mission Foods delivers value by saving families time, which is often a more scarce resource than money.

Value can also mean better performance. Consider Craftsman tools and its lifetime replacement guarantee. When a consumer buys a Craftsman product, the company justifies that the product is worth paying more for because of the guarantee it comes with, thereby giving it a higher perceived value. Performance also comes into play in categories that represent a much smaller investment, such as toilet paper. Even in a recession, many consumers may be pinching pennies, but they aren't willing to sacrifice the softness offered by Charmin.

Number two is being unique. Despite cutting back in areas considered luxuries (like their daily caramel macchiato), consumers are scrimping so that they can splurge on unique experiences and products. Consider summer movie revenues, which are down less than 0.5% from last year. The most successful movies were either part of a larger experience, had special effects that couldn't be replicated at home, or had huge talk value. There were no runaway hits from the independent film category, because consumers were spending only on movies they thought were the sure "winners."

"Sex and the City" earned $57 million in its first weekend and was the best box office debut of a film with a female main character. The film inspired an experience that extended beyond the theater, with 80% of moviegoers indicating they planned to attend a "Sex and the City" get-together before or after the movie, 68% planning to drink cosmopolitans and 51% planning to dress up for the event. The movie inspired a multi-layered experience that benefited everyone from Cointreau (an essential ingredient for the perfect cosmopolitan) to Manolo Blahnik.

The Apple iPhone is another unique, "I have to have it" product that did well this summer. On July 14, Apple announced that it sold its one millionth iPhone 3G, just three days after its launch. By comparison, it took 74 days to sell one million iPhones following the initial launch of the product in 2007 and almost two years to achieve this milestone with iPod. Why the urgency? Simple ... the iPhone is cool, there is no substitute, and tech junkies were cutting spending in a multitude of other places to make sure they could splurge on the device.

A third strategy: Reframe your competitive set. During a recession, understanding your consumers becomes even more critical. If you think the research you have from two years ago on how they are making choices in your category is relevant, forget it! Go back to the grocery store and watch the trade-offs that cash-strapped consumers are making. One critical thing you may notice is that your competitive set is larger than you think.

Consider the Kool-Aid brand. Many marketers, when evaluating the Kool-Aid competitive set, would include Crystal Light, Tang, generic brands, and juice brands. How many would include soda? To a consumer, they are all options that quench thirst, and if you examine how much the price of a case of soda has shot up in the past two months, you might notice an opportunity. The wise people at Kraft did just that. They are reframing the competitive set for Kool-Aid and repositioning the brand by focusing on its low price: one-third that of soda.

A final word of advice. Whatever you do, don't give up on marketing. When you cut marketing during a recession, you stop the conversation with your consumer. You are out of sight and ultimately out of mind, putting your brand at risk. The key is to rethink your strategy. Understand your current target mindset to make sure your message is relevant. Reallocate dollars to more effective mediums. Whatever it takes. Use this opportunity to build or strengthen your brand. A recession can be a great opportunity to gain market share and position your brand for the future. So don't just weather a recession--seize the opportunity to thrive.

(SOURCE: Nicole Davis Granese. Nicole Davis Granese is an account director at Slingshot LLC, a full-service advertising agency based in Dallas. She can be reached at