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.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Story Corps - Norman Walter

Storycorps has come to Charleston. What a wonderful project! Sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Archive, the project captures America's history through personal storytelling.

Today, we had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Norman Walter. What a great man and a wonderful human being!

Norman is a father who raised two daughters, both of whom graduated from Michigan State University. He was a devoted husband to a wife who was the first female graduate from West Virginia University's civil engineering program. Sadly, Mrs. Walter passed away in 1997.

Mr. Walter is a former glass cutter, having worked at Libby Owens Ford's mammoth glass factory which once sprawled beneath five tall stacks in the Kanawha City section of Charleston. The art of glass cutting was taught to him by his father and is a trade with its roots in the European craft unions, handed down from generation to generation.

Norman is a World War II veteran, who fought in Europe as a member of the U.S. Seventh Armored Division - and who fought in the infamous Battle of the Bulge - to ensure America's freedom, mine and yours. He tells of sleeping in the cockpit of his tank ... and of the fear ... and the cold. The stories still evoke strong emotions for him. He wishes that no man or woman should ever again have to experience what it's like to fight a war.

Norman is a retired farmer, who ran an egg farm called White Feather Farms, for over 20 years here in the Kanawha Valley. He delivered eggs all across the Kanawha Valley, bringing fresh eggs directly to customers' doorsteps via station wagon in similar fashion as the milkman from bygone years.

Norman is a photographer who has taken photos of Europe and the United States, especially fond of photographic the flora and fauna of West Virginia.

I cannot begin to do justice in recounting the wonderful stories that he shared. Nor can I do justice in attempting to describing what a great American he remains. On the eve of Independence Day, I am thankful to Norman Walter, and the thousands of other great men who fought to defend our freedom in WWII.

Norman, I honor you and salute you!

Name That Pizza Stand


Its pizza stands are ubiquitous ... malls, airports, sports arenas. The stores have a consistent look. The food looks pretty appealing to me, usually. Though I will admit that I rarely eat at a Sbarro store.

Crazy as it might sound, for me, it's about the name. How do you pronounce it?

Is it with the "sh" sound, as in "shuh barro?"

Or is the "S" silent, perhaps, resulting in a "barro" pronunciation?

Maybe the "b" is the silent letter? "Sorrow?" Unlikely.

Could it be that the "Sb" dipthong is pronounced with a buzzing "zee-vee" sound? This would make it "Zzzh varrow."

If I can't pronounce the name of the restaurant, I am not eating there. Call me weird.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Brand Killer Weedkiller

A bit of a reluctant admission here. If anyone should know about brands to trust it should be somebody who posts under a blog like this one, right?

About a month ago, I was shopping at the local home improvement mega-store. One of the items on my list was weedkiller. We have a nice brick patio off the kitchen. The gas grill is out there. The picnic table and Chloe's playhouse are out there, too. Over the course of the spring, the weeds had made their annual appearance--sprouting up between the bricks and along the sides of the patio. It was time to eradicate some weeds. A busy guy like me only wants to do this task once. Once and done!

In the past, I have used RoundUp brand weed killer. It has always done the job for me. It has always worked fast with only one spraying.

As I entered the store, I was presented with a bulk display of weedkiller. There it was, right beside the shopping carts, impossible to ignore. The store had two brands on display. One was RoundUp - about a half-gallon spray jug for $10. Right beside it was a competing brand ... a no-name competitor. This brand offered 30% more product for a buck less at $9. More product at a lesser price. Hmmm ... almost half the cost of the RoundUp.

So what did "Mr. Brand Loyalty" do? Yep. You guessed it. I picked the off brand.

As you might imagine, el cheapo didn't work very well. I had to spray the weeds twice. Plus, the spray mechanism was cheap and flimsy; I wasted 5-10 minutes just getting the pump primed so it would spray. I regretted buying the no-name prouduct and wished I had gone with the leading brand, RoundUp, as I had in the past.

This weekend, while watching a golf tournament on TV, I saw an ad for RoundUp brand weed killer. Their message: "RoundUp really works. It kills weeds fast, with only one application." As I recall, the notion was that RoundUp costs a bit more but is worth the price. Worth it, indeed! I'll never make that mistake again. Kudos to the marketing geniuses at RoundUp for articulating their USP and conveying their brand essence.

Anyone ever had a similar experience with a household product in which you gambled on an off-brand product?

Friday, June 24, 2005

More on Paid Trials

As I watch the world of selling move from "free trial offer" to paying a prospect to try the product, I recall listening to Bill Gates six or seven years ago.

Gates was speaking to the National Press Club. He was talking about the evolution of the digital world and shared the following prognostication: "In the years ahead, you'll see an electronic world in which companies will be offering you money to read their e-mail message. Click to open and read this message from Company XYZ, and fifty cents of cyber cash will be deposited to your account."

I am not sure that we're there yet, but if not, we're pretty close. With e-mail and Pay Pal and other forms of e-commerce, all of it is possible today.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pay Me to Try It?

More and more frequently, I am seeing marketing messages from companies who want to pay me to try their product or service. The most recent one that comes to mind is from Saturn. They offered me $25 to take a test drive of any Saturn vehicle. I have seen banks offering $25 or $50 in cash to open a new account. I have also seen investment firms offering to start a new customer into an investment account with several hundred dollars in an opening account balance for purchasing/trading stocks or mutual funds. Several months ago, one of our clients was contemplating the idea of paying its prospects $100 to agree to meet for a sales presentation.

I have mixed feelings, or a bit of reluctance, about such propositions.

How do you, the readers of Marketing Genius, feel about such offers? Does an offer of cash entice you or turn you off?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Staggering Stat

Here's a staggering statistic. I really found it to be an eye opener, in terms of magnitude. How can you find a way for your company to play in this game, to be a part of this growth wave?

What business is ten times larger than the movie industry and projected to increase 50% in dollars spent by 2013?

The answer is residential kitchen and bath remodeling, which will break the $100 billion mark this year, according to Kitchen and Bath Business magazine's 2005 Market Forecaster.

"While only one-third of all kitchen-remodeling jobs will involve a professional designer," the report says, "those jobs will account for more than half of the $68.25 billion spent. Full service remodeling firms will perform 14% of all bath-remodeling jobs, however those jobs will account for 37% of all spending."

Source: Herman Miller "Design Link" newsletter, June 2005.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Not a Bad mantra

Try this on for size from Sergio Zyman:

"The goal of marketing is to sell more stuff, to more people, more often."

When I think about that statement, I get goose bumps. Really, I do - because that is really where things really start to happen.

Today, I received four leads from prospects for one of our clients. The leads were generated through a very direct branding and communication process to CFO's that have never heard of our client before.

Yet, they are interested in learning more because of the benefit statements provided in this direct sales pitch and the manner in which the information is delivered to them.

Now, for us to meet our client's expectations, these leads need to turn into sales - his goal is to grow 400% in the next six months.

Ambitious - you bet.

Attainable - if we communicate our benefits clearly.

Stretch goal - why, heck yeah, but when we get there, we'll have done something pretty exciting: we will have sold more service, to more people, more often, for more money and our client will meet his goals.

I'd write more, but I need to go generate some leads.

Reader's Choice Best Blog Awards

We are thrilled to share the great news that our blog, Marketing Genius, won an Honorable Mention Award in the category of Group Blogs. The marketing geniuses at Marketing Sherpa informed us of their contest results yesterday.

To our loyal, growing readers ... and all of the folks who cast their vote for us in the contest, we humbly say:

Thank you!

We'll keep working hard to earn your support, trust and interest.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

GM's Desperation Move

General Motors is in a tough spot, to be sure. The US automaker's sales are suffering. GM's stock price hit a five-year low this spring. Plus, the company announced that it will cut up to 250,000 jobs.

In response, GM is playing the price card. In a huge advertising campaign, GM is announcing that anyone can walk in and receive the abosolute best, rock-bottom price: the employee-discount price.

This will result in a sales spike. GM will move some vehicles. And I'm not sure what other option the company has at this point, given the need for a rapid improvement. Yet here is what I struggle with: where does GM go from here? What do they do next?

What does a company do, once it has played the price card? Customers might now expect a low, low price from GM all the time. Once the current sales campaign ends on July 5, customers might be inclined to wait on the sidelines, anticipating the next super-duper sale. What happens to all of the customers who paid a higher price for their GM vehicle, prior to this historic price cut ... how do they feel now?

Let's hear from the readers of the Marketing Genius blog ... what do you think GM should do once its "employee discount price" promotion ends? And do you agree with its price-slashing move?

Thanks for the Support

A huge Thank You to all of our friends who voted for the Marketing Genius blog in the Reader's Choice Best Blog Awards.

We are waiting for announcement of the results by Marketing Sherpa, the contest sponsor. As soon as we get the results of the contest, we will post a link here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Sherman Paul Lineberg

My son was born yesterday! At 12:45 p.m. my wife gave birth to a 8 pound, 1 ounce, bouncing baby boy. He is big (22 inches in length) and healthy and beautiful. (And yes, I'm biased!)

What a joy ... what a blessing!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Secrets to Success in Earned Media - Lesson 2

Get to know your essential reporters, beat writers, editors and publishers. It is crucial to success in earning media coverage for your stories and your clients' stories. It's pretty simple, if you stop and think about it. Reporters and writers are people, after all. And people like dealing with people they know.

At Maple Creative, we treat our media reps like customers or prospects. We court them. We take them to lunch. We send them notes. We compliment them on a job well done. We build rapport and stay in touch with them.

On our team, all of us who deal with the media have a goal of meeting with one media representative each week. We seek personal relationships with the writers, reporters, editors and publishers, who are so critical to our success.

Once you get to know them, it is infinitely easier to reach them. Imagine, calling a writer to run a story idea through his or her "filter." How about calling an editor to see if something is "newsworthy?" Not only is it a relationship approach, it shows respect ... and it works.

Viewing and treating media professionals as people, and not a means to an end, is a fundamental shift in the practice of earned media and public relations. Try it--you'll see!

Monday, June 06, 2005


Wired magazine rocks! I've said for several years that it is the best technology business periodical available.

As I picked up my June issue, I see that Wired has been honored as the winner of the 2005 National Magazine Award for General Excellence.

Deservedly so!

Kudos to the publishing and journalism geniuses at Wired!!

P.S. - They have a nice RSS feed, too,

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Orange Intuition

Last year on our Blog, Skip noticed the coming of the color "green" as hot for the summer.

Well, a few weeks ago I noticed something and wish I had wrote about it sooner: Orange.

In the past few weeks, I've notices orange everywhere. Muted tones, bright hues, shorts, shirts, hats, kids running around a music festival in matching polo shirt - everywhere orange.

It's the hot color this summer.

To be honest, I haven't read that orange is it. As a consumer, I've just noticed that it is everywhere.

I am always astounded how things like this happen.

Is there a secret room that I don't know about that people that make clothes meet in and make these decisions?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Google Suggest (beta)

The new Google Suggest is a really cool application. As you begin to type your entry into the Google search box, the program logic brings up a box of related search terms. But wait ... there's more!

Google Suggest also tells you how many Web sites exist that pertain to the search term or its related derivatives.

Example: As soon as I type the word "Marketing" into the Google Suggest search box, it shows me the following information:

Marketing - 170,000,000 results
Marketing plan - 20,800,000 results
Marketing mix - 8,300,000 results
Marketing jobs - 20,200,000 results
Marketing research - 18,400,000 results
Marketing strategy - 15,800,000 results
Marketing magazine - 13,100,000 results

How might we use such information? I can think of two ways.

First, if we were designing a Web site, we could use Google Suggest to determine the most popular related search terms. Then, we could build the best set of words and phrases into our keywords for the Web site code.

So, in our case, for "marketing" we would want to add "marketing plan" and "marketing research" and perhaps a few other related terms. Note: I am not suggesting that you add unrelated terms, just because they are popular. In fact, doing such could get you "blacklisted" by the search entities on the Web.

Conversely, if we were trying to create, invent or name something, and we wanted it to be unique and differentiated, we could use Google Suggest in reverse. We would look for those words and phrases with the fewest results.

Isn't this cool! How could you use Google Suggest to help refine your business and especially its Web presence?

Kudos to the marketing geniuses at Google for this useful new technology.

Best Day for E-Mail Marketing

The other day a client asked me the following question: "So, Skip, what is the best day of the week for sending e-mail?" {We are working together to promote a learning opportunity, a workshop of sorts, planned for September.}

To be clear, the issue here is: what day of the week is best for my audience to see my e-mail message? It's not about sending; it's about reading. It's not about us; it's about them (the audience). And finally, there is no guarantee that anyone will ready anything.

I thought that the best day of the week for sending e-mail messages was Tuesday. Well, it seems that Tuesday used to be the best day of the week.


Mondays are brutal. Too many meetings. Too much other email noise.

Fridays are almost the weekend. Normal humans do not want to work too hard on Fridays; they're already thinking about the weekend.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are the big Meeting Days. This, I know to be true from my friends in the hospitality and catering sectors. Plus, I worked in sales for many years. Prospects, clients and customers are more receptive to meeting with a visitor on Wednesday or Thursday. Folks are busy with meetings and appointments on these days. As a result, neither Wednesday nor Thursday is the optimal day for sending an important e-mail message.

Alas, it must be Tuesday. {As a trivial aside, I was born on a Tuesday. This, however, has in no way affected my thinking on the matter at hand.} Tuesday has worked well for us as the "go" day for e-mail publishing, as well as story pitch - by the way, for several years.


Until recently, the best available research showed that more e-mails were read on Monday and Tuesday than were sent on those days ... thus, the sweet spot. But according to a research report (May 2005) from eROI, the e-mail universe has moved toward a condition of stasis. Things have evened out, so to speak.

Empirically speaking, there is no longer a "best day" to have your audience receive your e-mail message.

What to Do?
I'm sticking with Tuesday. You should too. When the quantitative world leaves us without a clear path, we should rely upon on that which makes intuitive sense.

Send those imporant e-mail messages and launch those wonderful
e-newsletters late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. Plan your launch so your message is waiting in the inboxes of your readers when they get to work on Tuesday.



marketing sherpa


Ideas4Rent (original source: Return Path)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Secrets to Success in Earned Media - Lesson 1

Lesson One: Present a compelling, interesting story.

Don Hewitt, the successful producer of 60 Minutes ran his news show around this one guiding principle: tell me a story.

At the end of the story, Don Hewitt wanted to wind up thinking: "Hmmm - I didn't know that."

Simple. Effective.

Why? People love stories. That's what readers or viewers want. Accordingly, that's what editors, publisher, producers and reporters seek. They look for good stories. Period.

Fashion your news into a good story. It may take some creativity. It might require some extra time and effort. Don't just tell the news. Don't just recite the facts. Put a face on your story. Highlight an interesting central character. Develop one or more side-bar storylines to complement the main story.

People love stories. If you want to earn media coverage, tell them a story.

The Best Java Jacket in the World

My friend and colleague, Mr. Malinoski, is on this personal crusade to rid the world of ineffective java jackets.

I present the world's best. It's made by Illy, an Italian maker of coffee, equipment and accessories.

The Illy coffee insulator looks cool and works great! It looks like a million bucks ... stylish, double-lined and most importantly, thick enough to prevent hot hands.