Marketing Genius from Maple Creative

Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Monday, April 25, 2005

More on Wendy's

Two days after my recent post about the Wendy's PR debacle, the investigative authorities announced that the "fingertip in the chili" was a hoax. It seems that Ms. Ayala had planted the appendage as a means for seeking damages from Wendy's.

Obviously, this news changes things quite a bit. This is a powerful message point for Wendy's, one that enables them to take a position of power ... one of forthrightness.

My commentary and my musings on the topic had little to do about the "right or wrong" of the matter. I was focused on the "dollars and sense" (and brand equity) of the matter. (Recall the 20% to 50% sales decline in California.)

Regardless of whether Wendy's was blameless or blameworthy, I did not feel that they were handling the matter in a sufficiently pro-active, aggressive manner. You just don't let sales suffer like that at the mercy of public opinion.

Hey-I call 'em like I see 'em.

Now ... how and where can I still get that free milkshake?

Rick Lee's Photo Blog

We are thrilled and proud to welcome another Charlestonian to the Blogosphere.

Introducing ... [drumroll]

Rick Lee.

Rick is not only one of the best commercial photographers in West Virginia, but also a technology maven. He has long been an early adopter of technology ... from Compuserve to computer flight simulators.

Rick has a great eye, which leads to many great observations about the world around us. His blog is already brimming with great photos, as you might expect--and other creative musings, which just may surprise and delight you.

Go ahead. Check out Rick Lee's new blog.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Care to Join Me for Lunch at Wendy's?

It is lunch time. Who would like to join me for a trip to Wendy's? I bet we will be ordering a couple cups of chili, right?


I am fairly certain that none of you would be interested in my offer.

And that's because Wendy's is smack in the midst of a huge PR debacle ... perhaps one of the worst such crises in many, many years. The New York Times has a great article about the situation in today's version. It is an insightful, well written piece that explores and highlights the inner workings of a PR crisis, including the effects on Wendy's, its leadership team and the affected customer, Ms. Ayala.

The company has 6,600 stores. In California, where the incident occurred, sales at Wendy's stores have declined 20% to 50%. Sales have to be down across the whole corporation. I would be surprised if Wendy's sales are not down more than 10% as a whole.

So far, they have been working through press conferences and statements. Those were precisely the right first steps. Now, according to the NY Times story, Wendy's is giving out free milkshakes all weekend in 48 stores across Northern California.

A free milkshake? C'mon. You have to be joking! I am not going to place anything from Wendy's in my mouth--free or purchased--until I am assured that they have the problem under control and that this cannot and will not happen again.

My advice: Wendys needs to get out in front of the public on TV in paid ads that are not filtered by the media. I need to see the chairman of the company on TV in a straight-talk advertisement. I am recalling Lee Iacoca with Chrysler in the early '80s. Wendy's needs to be telling America--and telling us on prime time network TV--what it is doing to address the matter.

This is a national, major retail mega-brand. America needs to see Chairman Schuessler in a serious gray suit, conservative tie, in front of a plain backdrop. And every person in America needs to see that message at least three times. Put it on during Oprah ... during The Apprentice ... during Survivor ... and during Everybody Loves Raymond. (Not during CSI!)

To be sure, that campaign will cost millions of dollars. But what is a 10% nationwide downturn costing? What is the long-term accrued damage to the brand?

[And for the record, I like Wendy's food and its stores. I like that they have healthy menu options. My family has patronized Wendy's stores in the past.]

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The coffee is still hot

Well, they didn't respond.

I tried to tell them that there product was flawed (the coffee sleeve - too thin), the person on the phone said they would get back to me.

They haven't.

The great thing now is that the person that makes my coffee at our local bookstore is conditioned to give me two sleeves each time I buy a coffee.

She got sick of me asking for an extra sleeve.

Ooooh, the drama.

Redesign of the Medicine Bottle

Things work better when basic design principles are applied. It's true. IDEO has been proving it for years. Here's a great example of a much-needed redesign.

It seems Target hired Klaus Rosberg, a Booklyn, NY industrial designer to rethink and remake the basic pill bottle. The result is remarkable and revolutionary. Wonder how many lives this will save?

Bravo to the marketing geniuses at Target ... once again!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Motorola RAZR

I'm a long-time PalmPhone / PDA phone / Smartphone user. Recently, when my old reliable Samsung i330 Smartphone bit the dust, I set out on a journey to find something new. (By the way, the Samsung i330 was a great phone. It served me well for more than two years - providing all of the functionality that I expected and more!)

So did I go Blackberry?
Treo from Handspring?

Nope. Neither. I shopped around the Internet and local stores ... tried both the Blackberry and the Treo ....

I ended up with a Motorola RAZR V3. As you may know, or might have guessed, I am a design afficianado. A glutton for good design. One might say that I have a bit of a design fetish. For me it's more than good looks. My phone, my car and my electronics are my tools. I seek function AND form.

The RAZR blew me away! It swept me off my feet from the first moment that I touched it. So much so that I abandoned using a combination mobile phone and PDA for a straight mobile phone. Not that there is anything ordinary about the Razr! It is so light, thin and sleek. Best of all--it works, extremely well! There are too many subtle, intuitive design features to list here.

Ahhhh, the Razr! It is sharp. It is stylish. It is fun to own.

I never thought I would be using a phone-mounted camera or downloading custom ring tones. But alas, I am. The Razr just sucks you into its multi-media features. My current main ring tone? "Brass Monkey" by the Beastie Boys. (Hell yeah - I'm old school. But I've also downloaded some Rap and Hip Hop tones ... Snoop, Usher, etc.)

One of the best things about owning the Motorola Razr is the fact that I met its designer, Dan Williams, last December at Tom Peters' Re-Imagine Summit. Dan shared some scoop with me on what's in the design pipeline, and he was really proud of the Razr. And well he should be!

I am still in learning mode, somewhat. But the RAZR and me ... we're a match made in heaven. It's a keeper!

Props to the marketing geniuses at Motorola!

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Masters & The NHL

As a kid, golf on television was for me a sure-fired way to get some sleep. Coverage of some final round somewhere was my cure for acute insomnia. I’d wake up refreshed and ready to go do something – something other than golf. Golf was for rich old guys in plaid pants and certainly wasn’t as exciting as football, baseball, basketball or hockey.

Today, however I find myself more interested in the game of golf and all its frustrations.

I’ve only been golfing for a little over two years. I golf occasionally at best - being the father of a 3-year-old takes up much of my time and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. I am usually right at the brink of breaking 100 - at some point I should take some lessons. I’m looking forward to getting in a few rounds this year. And I look forward to watching a few rounds on television as many others and I did yesterday.

Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity or changes in my life but golf is more exciting. The final round of The Masters yesterday was no different. For two days the major seemed locked up by Chris DiMarco. Then Saturday came and saw Tiger on the prowl, gaining ground on DiMarco. Sunday saw what would likely go down as one of the most memorable final rounds in majors’ history. Tiger seemed to have his fourth Green Jacket by the collar, with one finesse shot after the other. His miscue on 16 was an opportunity for another great shot, reminiscent of Danny Noonan’s final putt in Caddyshack – for all you serious golfers out there, relax, it’s okay to admit you’ve seen the movie. DiMarco matched each of Tiger’s great shots. It was exciting to the point that even my wife and daughter were cheering – that’s huge!

What was I thinking about at the conclusion of this great event? The subject of this, my first blog – excuse the length. Golf inspired me to write my first blog. The topic: you guessed it... hockey. Why hockey? Because as I sat there, it became apparent just how successful golf has been at marketing and just how unsuccessful the National Hockey League has been at marketing – we’d be approaching the pursuit of the Stanley Cup if hockey had a season this year. I am by no means a huge hockey fan. I am in the marketing and public relations field and see the NHL as a good case study.

So how has golf like other major sports done so well in marketing? What can the NHL learn?

First, Golf has become part of our culture. It is everywhere: on television, in magazines and in video games. New courses are popping up everywhere. Everyone is trying to learn the game or not trying to and just getting out there and playing a round.

Hockey on the other hand, is seldom mentioned except when people (very few people) ask, “What happened to hockey?” Golf, like baseball and football, has become integrated into American culture. Hockey has not.

Second, it has become easier to learn and understand golf. Announcers go out of their way to explain the game and its various challenges. Such commentary goes a long way. Hockey on the other hand is still a confusing game for the average viewer. Can anyone explain icing?

Third, golf is international. I know, you’re going to say so is hockey, and you are right. The difference is that golf does not have to look for opportunities to expand in order to survive. Hockey does. If the NHL wants to survive it must look for opportunities for expansion overseas.

Fourth, golf promotes youth golf. There are kids' golf programs, more and more kid-friendly courses and kid-friendly equipment & merchandise. The more kids that play golf, the better it is for golf. Likewise, the more kids that are playing hockey, the better it is for the NHL.

Fifth, golf has superstars. Tiger, Phil, Arnold, Jack, Vijay. I could go on. They are recognizable. They are everywhere, even if you don’t subscribe to a golf publication. They are for the most part ‘good’ celebrities and to some extent replaceable. Tiger is on pace to replace Jack Nicklaus, just as Kobe Bryant or LeBron James could replace Jordan.

But if you were on a plane sitting beside an NHL superstar, would you know it? Not likely. With few exceptions, NHL superstars are for the most part unrecognizeable. Who if anyone will replace Wayne Gretzky, as that recognizable superstar face of hockey?

Until the NHL is to the point where its players are recgonizeable, its reach global and its future viable, it will be hard for this great game to become a more marketable entity, let alone a part of our culture. Until it appeals to the average fan it will be forced to rely upon its die-hard fans, and that’s just not working.

Golf has succeeded because it has captured both. It has those who previously saw the game as slow and boring, young and old alike, waiting on the edge of their seats for a 25-foot putt from the second cut of the rough to drop. Waiting for their opportunity to proclaim, in their best golf commentator or Carl Spackler immitation, “It’s in the hole!”

That’s why golf is successful. That’s why hockey is not.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Power of a Company Blog

The following is a true story. None of the numbers or facts have been embellished or exaggerated.

We created this blog - Marketing Genius - in March 2004. Throughout the remainder of 2004 we focused on posting useful, relevant and sometimes quirky content. It was mainly a creative outlet and a quasi-business hobby. It was new and fun. But in the course of having fun, we created 87 blog posts in our first year.

Somewhere around late January 2005, we reached the tipping point. We went from 2 or 3 hits/day on the blog to 30-40 hits per day.

"Big whoop. Thirty hits a day is nice, but what's the big deal, dude?"

Okay, here's the payoff. [Get the visual of a mushroom cloud.]

The Marketing Genius blog now generates more than sixty percent (60%) of the traffic to our company site - !

From direct visitations ... to click-through visits ... to drive-by traffic from spiders and other search engine robots, the blog-related traffic that reaches the Maple Creative company site is more than 15,000 hits per month.

This firsthand example has proven to me that blogging is a powerful tool. I am a believer!

How to:
1- Create a blog.
1a- Give it a killer name that's unique, distinctive, catchy, short and memorable.
2- Write about stuff that's relevant to your company--its mission, its daily travails & triumphs and the broader industry in which it exists.
3- Keep the blog active by posting useful content on a regular basis.
4- Work to build incoming and outgoing links to other related, successful blogs.
4a- Be open and generous; be reciprocal.
5- Build hyperlinks to your company site into your blog.
6- Keep blogging, following above recommendations, until you reach liftoff.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Katie Couric

I'll admit it. I have a crush on Katie Couric. Always have. She's classy and kind of kooky. Sorta like the down-to-earth cheerleader from school.

Keep on rockin' Katie!

We love ya!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

How to Drink Coffee

Why do shampoo bottles, toothpaste tubes and cereal boxes have directions on them?

Because customers need help using your product. The clearer, the better.

The classic upsell is on a shampoo bottle: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

If you follow the directions, you go through the product pretty darn quick.

Today, as I purchased a coffee from Starbucks (the sleeve I was given was thick enough - no hot hands I'm happy to say - see below) I found a handy-dandy-how-to-drink-our-coffee guide.

Now, if you can't tell, I'm a heavy coffee drinker. I know how to make, drink and enjoy (probably too much) strong coffee.

But the guide was interesting to me. It explained the differences about the products Starbucks offers. Because to be honest, I am a pretty plain and simple fellow - Tall, Dark Roast. Period.

But the guide basically guides you through the way that you can buy the more expensive products Starbucks has to offer.

Brilliant. Give me a point of purchase informational guide so that I consider buying a more expensive drink on my next visit that I may not have been able to understand before.

I still can't say Chantico, but I know what it is and why I'm craving one right now.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

New color trends

This time each year we try to give a preview of what's ahead in the design world in terms of color. Last year, here on this Blog, we correctly prognisticated the emergence of green ... old school Izod Lacoste green, grass green. Look all around you, green is everywhere. Green is on the racks at the leading retail clothing/fashion stores. Green has made a huge invasion into corporate logo design and advertising.

So, what is next?

I asked my friend and colleague at Maple, Kim Gayton, to look into her crystal ball. Kim's fondly known around our shop as "Priestess Pantone." This is what she sees:
barely-there colors, especially barely-there pastels.

> Very light ice blue
> Barely-there purple
> Ultra-pale pink

Only time will tell if our color forecast was correct again. I'll bet that her prediction proves to be true.

Fly-i? I did - and loved it!

Independence Air came into our market (Charleston, West Virginia) about a year ago. It was a perfect, three-point landing. Independence Air shook up our stodgy, stagnant and overpriced air-travel market with some good old fashioned competition and set the established carriers scrambling.

Several weeks ago, I had my first chance to Fly-I. Needing to get to a business conference in Washington, DC, I snatched a couple of $44-each-way tickets. Yes, that's right, a non-stop, direct flight to DC for $88 plus tax!

I loved their strategy, their marketing and their pricing--obviously. You'll never guess what I loved most about Fly-I? Design.

I love fresh, stylish design. It ususally doesn't get me on the front end, but it always keeps me once I've become a customer. It happened for me with the iPod ... again with Fly-i.

Independence Air uses design to emphasize its uniqueness. The other guys use squares, rectangles and triangles. Independence uses the circle.

Every other brand is red, white and blue. Independence uses light blue, dark blue and tons of white.

It's a stylish, very cool, very "now" look. It appeals to me. And I think that the Fly-I look is timeless, with equal measures of retro, contemporary and now. The look is carried across everything from their airplanes to their ticket jackets and from their uniforms to their departure gates.

The first thing I noticed in the new Fly-i design scheme was a freebie. The baggage tags ... the free paper ones that are usually ugly and a nuisance. The ones that you get when you Fly-i are killer. Wow! The tags look great (front view) (back view). They feel sturdier than those crummy tags you get from the other guys. And ... the best part ... they are oversized, providing enough room for us to write our names and identifying information legibly.

Great design: looks better, works better!

The second thing that "Wow'd" me were the Indpendence Air departure gates at Dulles Airport. Gorgeous. The layout was different, better. The chairs and benches were not drastically different from other terminals, but there were very exceptional elements of great interior design lurking all around. Fabric panels with pleasing patterns. Divider walls and screens with splashes of handsome wood veneer (birch, beech, perhaps maple). Fabric banners with subtle, hip notions of the brand hung from the ceiling at well-placed gaze-points. Everything was just enough to tell me that I was in the right place, yet not so much as to pound the brand into my face. Small, expert touches were bundled to differentiate and soften the space.

The service was good and different, perhaps softer and more dignified. The gate attendants were dressed in stylish uniforms that looked more like clothing than costumes. Black slacks/skirts and shirts in the Fly-I blue. The gate staff got out and interacted with me and the other travelers (customers) in the departure area. Instead of standing behing some barrier or desk, they walked around. Announcements were made by a Fly-guy who used a hand-held cordless microphone ... think Southwest Air without the comedy show.

If it looks better and works better, it's great design.

Huge props to the marketing geniuses at Independence Air!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Marketing for the Solo Entrepreneur

I have enjoyed working with the owner of a small consulting business here in West Virginia. Trish, the owner, is an intelligent, witty and compassionate entrepreneur. Her business is to provide educational consulting services in the areas of character and ethics--vital education for business leaders, change agents and non-profit executives.

Like many small businesses, Trish had some hesitation working with a marketing firm. No wonder! She probably thought we would advise her to spend tens of thousands of dollars on advertising. Au contrere!

When a business is new and does not have beau coups bucks to spend on marketing, it makes sense to spend wisely and frugally. And that's just what we've done. We have not spent a penny on advertising, publicity or promotions yet. We might never ... only if we have to, will we advertise. Why? Her market is very tightly defined and concentrated. Plus, she can't afford it right now.

Instead, our approach has been to define, create, organize and construct her marketing and sales process. In my vernacular, we're building the marketing and sales toolkits. And we're doing so in bootstrap fashion. We are planning and organizing (in advance) the conversations that will occur about her subject matter and services.

The thought process is to conduct marketing to get folks interested enough to call or e-mail Trish for more information. We've used a Web site, speaking engagements, earned media and after much prodding, pleading and persuading (from me), she has begun blogging, too! In addition to these tools, Trish has been very actively networking and prospecting at conferences and training events.

Marketing puts the ball in play. Sales takes it the rest of the way. The second, most important step, is the sales process. To me, it is all about being ready when the prospect comes calling ... or e-mailing. Without such preparation in the area of sales--conversation, planning, tool kit--all marketing is wasted time, money and effort.

Our work here has been about helping Trish to decide what she will give, show and tell her prospects to convert their curiosity and interest into a contract or sale.
For Trish the sales toolkit consists primarily of a very clever and gorgeously designed un-bound brochure, which we call the "no-chure." This tool, which consists of a series stack of twelve custom-designed and cleverly written cards, accompanied by a unique, gorgeous over-printed carrier envelope, can be used for direct mail, face-to-face selling and trade shows. Each card can also be used individually on a stand-alone basis for specific conversations.

Another fundamentally important tool in any sales toolkit is the proposal package. We've spent hours working on this too--format, content, presentation, word choice, and colors. We have devoted much thought and focus to the presentation of her credentials and references and testimonials, too. Anyone in the consulting business better be prepared to demonstrate convincingly that she's qualified and competent.

Trish is ready. She has the marketing toolkit. She has the sales toolkit. She understands the process and how to use the various tools.

Ready for the very important, happy ending ... ?

Trish just sent me an e-mail from the conference she's presently attending. She closed a big, juicy deal with a prospect. Her Web site and her brochure helped clinch it, she said.

Wow! It is a thing of beauty when the magical, methodical marketing process helps a business owner make more money. Growth! Success!

(Trish- if you're reading this, congratulations -- and many more!)

Friday, April 01, 2005

Boy that's hot!

I dunno if it's just me or not, but something changed at my local coffee house.

They have begun using a new coffee sleeve, you know the thing that is supposed to keep your hand from getting burned when you are carrying your coffee back to your office.

Well, I noticed the other day that my hand didn't make it. The sleeve wasn't doing it's job. Basically - the sleeve is too thin. Either someone tried to save money on production or we got a bad batch of coffee sleeves.

Don't get me wrong. the sleeve looks pretty - it has some famous art work on it.

But nonetheless - I'm getting burned.

So, each time I order, I have to ask for two sleeves. This causes a distraction in the whole process of getting served and the people behind me look at me like I'm a little weird (I'm keeping them from their coffee).

I'm not going to name the company that has created the sleeve, I've called and they have said they are going to call me back and let me know what they find out about the situation, so I'll keep you updated.

Here's why this is important. I had a client ask about placing their marketing message on these sleeves.

My concern is that my client's logo and marketing message would be on a product that is in essence burning their target customers.

I'll keep you updated. Until then, watch out for the thin coffee sleeves.