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.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Wendi Understands the Five Benefits

I've been doing quite a bit of field work lately. During this recent spate of business travel, I spent many hours listening to XM Radio while driving along in my Jeep. Most of what I listened to was news talk and sports talk radio. (Hey - I'm a guy, alright? It's what we do. So don't goon on me.)

The ads on XM are odd. They cannot be localized, so all you hear are advertisements for mass-retail brands, other media channels or products available over the Internet. Listening to this slew of ads, I "learned" that I need to take a pill for healthy thyroid function, another pill to boost my testosterone level and hypnosis to boost my confidence.

The hypnosis ad was not only unusual in its content, it was unusually good in its presentation of benefits. The service provider, a psychotherapist and hypnotist named Wendi, clearly understands The Five Benefits (as previously described on this blog). Wendi says that I should come to her for hypnosis. Doing so will give me more confidence, she claims. But she doesn't stop there. The feature is hypnosis. The function is to increase confidence. Great.

Next, she communicates the benefits, very clearly. If I get the hypnosis ... and the boost in confidence ... I will become more effective at work so that I can make more money. (Wealth) I will kick addictions to alcohol and/or nicotine. (Health) And I will have more and better sex! (Sexual gratification)
Really - you have to hear the radio spot!

Now, I am not saying that we should all rush out and buy the hypnosis from Wendi. What I am saying is that Wendi understands how to present through her marketing the benefits of the service she's offering. Kudos to Wendi and the other marketing geniuses who put the drill-down benefits into their marketing!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Marketing with a Donkey

There he was, Zipper, the donkey from the Super Bowl ad.

The donkey that wanted to be a Clydesdale.

People grinned, smiled and got a pretty good feeling looking at the little fellow as he stood in his pen next to the mammoth Clydesdale horses.

Again, Budweiser wins. Guys like me look at the donkey and remember a funny commercial.

My kids, want to know more about the donkey. My wife thinks it's funny that they actually went to the effort to have the donkey with the horses.

It made it seem that the commercial was real! I felt good about the donkey, he made it, his dream to run with the Clydesdales became a reality.

Then it kept getting better. We could get our picture taken with the horses (and the donkey).
My kids got to ride a mini-Clydesdale-motorized horse ride after the looked at and petted the horses (an donkey).

Then you could go into an air conditioned store (man it was hot) and buy beer steins, shirts, hats, shot glasses, mini-beer wagon replicas, horse busts (yes, horse heads) in a variety of sizes to display on your desk on the corner of your home.

The Busch folks did it again - complete activation.

They immersed each member of my family with the iconic symbolism of their brand.

Again, great memories.

As we left the horses (and the donkey) we approached a bridge and I began hearing the faint sounds of patriotic music.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dragons and Water at AB

It was hot at Bush Gardens last week!

I'm talking carry-your-kids-on-your-shoulders-sweat-profusely hot.

So when we walked into Dragon land, it was a blessing.

Bush Gardens has created a small pool, with rubber rocks, that kids of all ages (ok, I got in the water, I said it was hot) can run around in and cool off.

It is themed as a dinosaur playland. Most of the rides in the area can be ridden by small children (like my nineteen month old) safely.

Dragon Egg Ferris Wheel, Dragon Mini-log Flume, Flying Dragons - glorious rides for the wee ones.

My children had a great time - oh, and don't forget the dragon show and the dragon tree house.

Here's where the immersion comes in.

We are feeling better after getting cooled off in the dragon fountain pool and then we go to get lunch.

Dragon cups, dragon lunch box for the kids' meal, dragon stuffed souvenirs - we were immersed in dragons and my kids loved it.

They have good memories, a dragon souvenier they are sleeping with and they got to cool off on a really hot day.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Marketing With Hats

As we strolled through France (at Busch Gardens, VA) my children were magnetically drawn to store fronts that displayed colorful, oversized, silly and furry hats.

These were hats that they would never wear after our visit to the park.

Where would you wear a three foot long cowboy hat? Where would you wear a furry-wide- brimmed-sombrero-like chapeau? How about a duck head?

No where! That's where.

But I will tell you the displays pulled them in like a super-powered kid magnet.

Every time we walked by, they asked for a hat. Someone at AB knows that this occurs thousands of times each day. Someone has watched consumer behavior and watched the hat rack pull in the parents of children like mine.

From a marketing and product positioning perspective, it was a glorious site to see. Place a high margin item (the foam cowboy hats have to be a steal) in a location that pulls in the consumer through their child - each and every time.

The other group that seemed to be a high consumer of the hat phenomenon was groups of kids. Cheerleading squads, church youth groups, etc. were walking around the park in hats that were not going to be worn much after the visit to the park that day. Product positioning and display drove sales that day. I watched it occur.

This is one item that we did not leave the park with, in my next blog, I'll tell you how water sold my kids on a dragon.

Anheuser-Busch Land

Just returned from a fun filled vacation with my family. Part of our time was spent at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA.

Over the next few days, I'll be writing about the experience, what I saw from a marketing perspective, particularly how the immersion in the Anheuser-Busch marketing machine effected my family, my wallet and my children's behavior.

What I will share with you are my observations - nothing more nothing less - but they are very, very real marketing experiences that we had and I have a belief that someone knows exactly what they are doing. There is a reason they are the King of Beers.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Five Benefits

In marketing we are constantly advising our clients to promote the benefits of their product or service, instead of features or functions.

"This new device has a 65 Terabytes of bandwidth and a 125 gigahertz processor."

So what!

You have to tell me what that will mean to me. Anyone attempting to promote or sell anything must drill down with your thinking until you get to the real benefits.

What's the benefit, then? In this case I can think of two: make more money and have more time to spend with family. The device works faster so you will get work done more quickly, enabling you to shave time off your work day to devote to family. Or, you can do more work in a given time period and (ostensibly) make more money.

A PR consultant from New York City taught me that there are really only five benefits that anyone can mention. According to Rick, it does not matter what the product is or what industry one inhabits, you have to present your case so that you tell your audience within the first ten seconds of your message which one of the five possible benefits you are offering.

There are five, period. F-I-V-E.

Are you ready for them?

Here goes:

1. Make me wealthy
2. Improve my appearance
3. Help me to be more well-liked by my family or friends
4. Make me live longer
5. Get me laid more often

Money, looks, popularity, health and sex. That's it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

People Product?

How often we hear these statements from companies:

"Our people are our product!"

"Our people make all the difference!"

"Our people are what distinguish us from the competition!"

These types of claims are far too common in small business and in service industries, especially. To the people who make such statements I say: Prove it to me!

How well do you present your people, your staff ... your service providers?

I mean REALLY how WELL do you articulate the special qualifications, experience, skills and talents that your professionals can provide for customers? If your people are truly different or better, then find a way to communicate such differences. (And, by the way, if they are not truly different or better than your competition, please stop making such statements--stop bullshitting us.)

How is the language conveyed ... the writing? Is it bland? Go ahead, check your company brochure and your Web site. I'll bet the copy sounds like a bland, boring biography. Yuck!

Go check your photography. C'mon ... actually go and take a look at it. Do you even have photos? If so, are they tiny and gray? Do they look like mug shots or driver's license photos? Not good, if so. Or are the photographs of your people big, colorful, interesting and flattering?

Why would a company NOT invest the money to have great (and I mean sensational) photography of its people--especially if that company claims to be a "people" business?

Take a look at the way we present our people at Maple Creative. I'm not bragging (really I'm not). But honestly we get tons of compliments on the way in which our Web site presents our people, affectionately known as the Mapleonians. As you will see, we've create a mini magazine feature on all of our folks. We want people to see and understand the unique talents and unique nature of each and every one of our creative professionals. Feel free to borrow from our approach, if you like it.

In case anyone wonders about the source of inspiration for our people presentation, it came from a book about the TV show Trading Spaces, which features a whole cast of talented interior designers.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Nike's New Ad: Tiger as a Toddler

Have you seen the new Nike golf ad on TV? I am referring to the computer animation version that portrays a toddler Tiger Woods winning the British Open golf championship. It's pure entertainment. The computer-graphic wizardry that created this spot is spectacular. To top it off, the commercial is loaded with emotion and nostalgia. The ad is a branding spot for Nike--pure soft-sell impressions of the brand name and swoosh icon. I'm not sure how much Nike Golf merchandise the spot will move due to its softness, but it certainly cements the psychological transferrence between Tiger Woods and the Nike brand.

Some times it's fun to take off the marketing guru hat and simply let oneself be entertained by a world-class production like this one. I loved this TV spot for a variety of reasons.

One thing that is interesting is that even though Tiger Woods is only 29 years old, in so many ways he is the hero of Baby-Boomer men in America today. For this generational cohort group, golf is an important part of the psychographic makeup. In the late 1990's the mercurial Mr. Woods came along and reinvented the game of golf, eclipsing everyone in his path. So instead of rooting for their contemporaries such as Watson, Faldo, Couples, Kite or Love, the Boomer men have accepted and adopted Tiger as their icon, by and large. To underscore this connection, the folks at Nike have cleverly used a musical track from the 1970's to accompany the amazing visuals.

I wish that
I knew what I know now,
when I was younger.

(Song: "Ooh La La" by The Faces)

One last thing--the timing of this ad was brilliant! Nike took a chance, producing this ad around the 2005 British Open ... and timing its release to coincide with the actual event. There was no way for Nike to know that Tiger would win. I suppose that even if Tiger had played poorly, the TV commercial would still be remarkable. But alas, Tiger captured the Claret Jug once again, making the folks at Nike ... and their ad agency ... look like marketing geniuses! Wow!

Marketing Lemmings

It comes as no surprise, really, that Ford and Daimler-Chrysler have come out with "employee pricing" programs. On the heels of GM's successful employee pricing promotion (as previously covered here) America's other automakers have seen fit to follow along like lemmings.

While I am not surprised, I am disappointed. The decision to match a price-slashing strategy is a questionable one, in my opinion. From a pure sales perspective, I understand that these moves effectively nullify GM's perceived price advantage. But from a marketing & business strategy perspective, the reactions by Ford and Chrysler are ill advised.

Suppose that customer Joe Jones has decided to buy an American-made sedan. Chances are high that Mr. Jones will take a first look at a GM car, his interest sparked by the GM discount program. What if he doesn't find the vehicle that exactly fits his requirements and desires at the GM dealership? It is likely that Joe Jones would head over to the local Ford or Chrysler car dealership, right? And if the GM price incentive didn't win his business, how concerned would he be about getting the same "employee discount" from the competition? Not very concerned, I contend. Again, if Joe Jones has decided to buy an American car, the me-too price incentives from Chrysler or Ford will have little or no impact on his buying decision. He would have wound up shopping in their showrooms anyway.

Final comments & thoughts on the matter:
- GM has already claimed the "employee pricing" position in the collective mind of the consumer
- While GM sold a ton of cars in June, it remains to be seen how much impact the price-slashing had on profits

A "me too" marketing approach earns the moniker of Marketing Lemming, NOT Marketing Genius!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Six Most Important Words in Marketing

How did you hear about us?

These are the six most important words in any marketing program.

It is essential to ask this question: "How did you hear about us?" Ask it each and every time that a new prospect, customer or constituent comes to you. It doesn't matter whether the inquiry comes as a personal (face to face) request, a phone call, a Web site hit, fax, e-mail message or other. You have to ask this question AND create a process for tracking the responses to the question. It's the only way, really, to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing program.

It's Friday afternoon at 5:00. Do you know where your prospects are coming from?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Those OnStar radio ads are phenomenally good, aren't they?

Why? I love the realism and the drama. It resonates with me. All of the ads contain actual audio excerpts from OnStar callers. People are in trouble, in danger, of one form or another.

"I'm having a low blood sugar episode." (A diabetic)

"My mommy is hurt and she won't wake up." (A child)

"We've broken down ... and we're in the middle of nowhere." (A family)

"My check engine light just came on. What should I do? (A man)

"I've locked my keys in the car. My dog is in there ... and it's 95 degrees. Can you help me?" (An elderly woman)

GM, the provider of the OnStar service, has done a great job of creating real-life incidents that we can all relate to and understand. In short, they have engaged our emotions--beyond simply engaging our eyes and ears. They have engaged our hearts.

I do not own a vehicle that has OnStar, but I think it's a clever, useful and beneficial service. All other things equal: price, quality, features--I would choose the car that came equipped with OnStar.

Bravo to the marketing geniuses who created OnStar AND it's wonderful ad campaign.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Growth of a Blog

As a frustrated, former engineer, the quantitative / analytical part of watching this blog's traffic growth has been amazing for me. What's amazing is how our traffic has grown in exponential bursts.

Here's a snapshot of how that has looked:

The first 10 months
15 to 30 vistors a day
very few comments
a handful of subscribers

Months 11 to 13
50 visitors a day
Occasional comments
About a dozen subscribers

* - part of the growth here was organic (i.e., we gave it time to work) and the other factor was that we figured out RSS feeds (FeedBurner, etc.)

Months 13 to 15
100 to 150 visitors per day
one or more comments per day
50+ subscribers

* - The nomination for Marketing Sherpa's Readers Choice Best Blog Awards (and subsequent Honorable Mention Award) was undoubtedly the driver of this most recent growth in traffic and readership. It's clear evidence of the power of publicity, positive PR and the Internet.

I would hope that part of our growth has been the result of a consistent, diligent commitment to providing useful, interesting & relevant marketing content.

For any new bloggers reading this and wishing for greater traffic, my advice is to be patient. Keep posting great content. Eventually, your traffic will take off. Keep the faith, fellow marketing genuises and burgeoning bloggers!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Armpits to Underarms in Seven Days

It's a simple promise that Dove is making to women all across the nation.

Buy our antiperspirant, use it, and receive the added benefit of better looking armpits.

Is it a promise that resonates with me, not really. Do I think it is great communication and positioning- you bet.

Why? Because Dove is trying to be real. They are appealing to a basic, habitual ritual that most women put themselves through each day. They are showing "normal" women in their advertising - not sleek, stretched supermodels. And asking them for business "take the 7-day test."

It's summer. Sun dresses abound and underarms are exposed. A promise to make skin better looking and reduce the anxiety of exposed sensitive skin should lead to success.

If the product does what it is promising, which some preliminary, nonscientific research (me asking women I know the question - does it work?) has shown that the product does make a difference.

Kudos to Dove. Tell the truth. Deliver the benefit. Be real.

Paid in Gasoline

Have the skyrocketing gas prices affected your summer travel plans?

At my house, with a newborn baby son, we are not taking a traditional summer vacation this year. What about you, fellow marketing guru and beloved reader?

It seems that one of West Virginia's leading tourism destinations, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, believes that gas prices may be keeping customers away from the resort. They have chosen to take matters into their own hands. Earlier this summer, Snowshoe would pay for your gasoline to get you to come there.

Anyone who made reservations before June 22 to visit Snowshoe received a "gas card" worth $25 in cash value. According to the resort's promotional flyer: "We'll give you a $25 Gas Card to help cover your travel expenses up to the mountain. It's that easy!"

Would this persuade you? Do you think it's a smart idea?

The offer was advertised on the airwaves and in newspapers. The clever promotion also got picked up as a news story (i.e., earned media coverage). Finally, Snowshoe reinforced the offer via direct mail, which came to my mailbox. This is a great example of coordinated, multi-media marketing. A tip of the hat to the marketing geniuses at Snowshoe!

GM Extends Its "Employee Discount for Everyone" Plan

As reported previously here on the Marketing Genius blog, General Motors is utilizing a strong price-discounting plan to generate a quick sales increase. The promotion is working, as previously mentioned here, with a 41% increase in June sales.

Not surprisingly, GM has extended the special pricing (which had been scheduled to end on July 5) until August 1. I had been following with great interest what GM would do once the July 5th elapsed and would have bet that GM would extend the deal.

Now, let's see what happens on August 2!

My concern all along has been the end game for this strategy. Where does it end? How do they end it? Perhaps most importantly to me, what do you do with the guy who paid full price before all this began? What does a GM sales rep say to that customer when he walks back into the local dealership this summer?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Welcome to the Second Half

With July here, this is a friendly reminder to all of our readers that the year 2005 is half over. This fact can be a somewhat brutal reality; time flies, doesn't it?

So, with half of the year gone, how are you doing with respect to your marketing plan? Are you halfway (or more) there on accomplishment of your 2005 goals and objectives?

If you are, congratulations! You are likely among the minority of business people.

And if you are not, it may be time to pick up the pace!

Here's to you, marketing geniuses. Have a great second half!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Gas Prices

Jim Nester and I were discussing gas prices the other day. He had stopped at the gas station on Wednesday morning to fill his gas tank and found himself staring straight down the barrel of an eighteen-cent per gallon price hike. Get this straight: the day before, the price had been eighteen cents less. Overnight, the station owner had rasied prices by eighteen cents. On a 20-gallon tank, that is an extra $3.60 to fill the gas tank.


Our discussion turned to the economics of gasoline and oil ... and what could possibly contribute to such a sharp price spike. The dealers association seems to always talk about state taxes. In West Virginia, the state adds a surcharge of $0.41 cents per gallon to the price. But wait--that $0.41 is a fixed amount, not a percentage. The state tax did not, logically could not be the source of the increase. Regardless, the dealers always seem to talk about the taxes.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to pin the price spike solely on the dealers or station owners. As I understand it, they are largely at the mercy of the petroleum corporations. Then too, the companies that transport and distribute the gasoline from the refineries to the dealers add their charges. At the source, the price per barrel, whether imported or domestic crude oil, is a huge deteminant.

The price of gasoline is a sensitive, personal and relative matter. I have a theory that everyone's price perceptions related to gasoline are tied to a historic, emotional benchmark. We all remember the price of gas at the time we started driving a car--and paying for gas out of our own pockets. It was a matter of pride, back then, to pay for my own gas at 88 cents per gallon. That's my benchmark. In my mind that's what gas SHOULD cost. Anything over $0.88/gallon is expensive ... and in a way I have this nostalgic notion that gas will someday return to that price.

What did gas cost when you started driving?

GM Revisited

According to a Reuter's news report today, GM's sales push (as previously discussed here on Marketing Genius) resulted in a 41% increase in sales for June 2005, compared to June 2004. In fact, GM led all American automakers in sales volume for the month of June. It was GM's biggest sales month since 1986. However, the report questioned whether or not the deep discounting will run the company into the red.

It was a desperation move. It appears that GM had to do something drastic that would generate some quick sales. Whether we marketing folks agree or disagree with the merits of the strategy, it looks like GM got what it wanted.