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, October 31, 2005

Honest Answers Are Short Answers

Whenever I watch a spokesperson at work I watch to see if they know their message and how effective they are at staying on message. Last evening while watching C-SPAN (yes, I occasionally watch C-SPAN) I caught a press briefing and an interview of a member of congress. Both programs showcased the importance of knowing and staying on message. Both showcased the ability of the media and others to get one off message and both unfortunately demonstrated what happens when one gets off message.

I noticed that the responses to the questions the messenger was most comfortable with were short and to the point. Those with which the messenger was least comfortable were long at the start and became even longer as the messenger's level of discomfort grew providing fodder for even more difficult questions. It got to the point that I began to question the believability of the responses. Why? Because in my opinion honest answers are short answers.

If you truly know your message you should be able to easily answer questions in a manner that reinforces your message and your credibility. Remember, you are in control. But the key to control is preparation. Prepare your message in advance. Prepare your responses in advance. Prepare your messenger in advance. Or prepare for the devastating consequences of being unprepared.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

More Hidden Logo Elements

While watching college football today, I saw the Big Ten Conference logo. Has anyone else noticed the hidden logo element? The logo is essentially a font treatment of the words "Big" and "Ten."

Here's a clue: how many teams are actually in the Big Ten Conference?

Happy hunting!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Owning The Word

Just went through an interesting exercise on Google.

I wondered who would be the top site returned for a random list of words. Here's what I found out:

Avocado: California Avocado Commission -
Breakfast: Mister Breakfast -
satiable: Catapult Communications -
Delivery: US Post Office -
Entertainment: EOnline! -

What's your word for your business?
Do you own it?
What happens when you search for you on the Internet?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Great Ads #4 - Clinique

A truly great image is a stopper. An image like the one in the Clinique ad stops the reader from her page-flipping frenzy, causing her to pause and observe.

The lines and the composition of this gorgeous Clinique ad also add to its greatness. See how the thin vertical tube of the mascara wand complements with perfect symmetry the skinny vertical spike of the shoe heel. The shiny black shapes are dramatic.

The fact that the imagery sends such a strong message is a mark of excellence. The photo says everything: "When it's time to get dressed up to look your best, you need Clinique mascara. When it is a special occassion and you want to look elegant, you better rely upon Clinique."

Clinique will help you make an impact, just like the one they have made with this great ad.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Making a Statement on My Cup

Found the following statement on my soft-drink cup from Arby's:

Don't come in and order the usual, because we won't have it. That's not what we're about here. We're about something different. We're about something much better than the usual. Maybe that makes us unusual. But that's how we think around here.

I love this language. It is so direct. Arby's is having a conversation with me--and the rest of the marketplace. And they are placing their intentions out in the open, for all of us to see. Once you read this, there is no room for you to have any doubt about the position that Arby's wants to own in the fast food market.

Arby's, I am not crazy about the oven mitt guy. He's okay. But I do love the language and tone of your marketing messages. Oh, and you had me with the advent of the Market Fresh sandwich line. The marketing geniuses at Arby's know this: quality sells!

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Power of Communication

Is this post about Marketing? I'm not quite sure.
But, I'm going to write it anyway.

Communication is incredibly powerful. If you do it constantly and everyone knows what is going on - the world is a lot better place to be.

When your clients know what you are working on, they understand the value you are bringing to them - viola! - they are happy.

When your customers understand that you appreciate them, their challenges and their business interests - things go smoothly.

When communications break down - chaos.

So, what's my point? Let's frame the discussion of Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations and E-commerce differently. If the conversation is active, engaging and everyone knows what is going on, the environment for sales flourishes - your customers are happy.

If you let it fail - I'm not saying that we're perfect - the recovery is three times as hard as not communicating on a consistent, clear, open basis.

Integrating communications, keeping customers informed, letting them know you care and are engaged - that's Marketing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More Marketing to Kids - Milk

"All aboard ... the chocolate milk train!"

This is just way too clever. The American Dairy Council released this tape of kids songs. All of the songs are about milk. They have great wacky singers with silly, wacky song voices.
The Chocolate Milk Train
The Smoothie Song
Drink Milk Everyday

The songs are very catchy. Kids love them. (OK - maybe some adults do, too!)

Each morning on the short drive from home to my daughter's pre-school, we crank up the milk songs and sing at the top of our lungs. We know all of the words.

The milk songs are stuck in my brain - and my daughter's brain, too. This explains why--suddenly in the middle of the day--one or both of us will have a craving for chocolate milk.

The weird thing is that no one in my house knows where this tape came from - it just sort of appeared. Maybe these were sent home from school. Who knows? Who cares? Just pass me the milk, please.

And a huge WOW to the marketing geniuses at the American Dairy Council.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Great Wolf Lodge - Dead on Targeting

Say you are 35, have three kids and you are looking for the ideal/perfect place to stay on vacation.

Well, one ad in a magazine led me to a Web site that has just about everything you could ask for: indoor water park, cabin like rooms, a Pizza Hut - all under one roof.

I think the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA is on to something.

They've created an environment experience for parents and children alike, that you cannot find anywhere else in the Williamsburg, VA area.

You see, we love Williamsburg. We go there almost every year.

This resort/hotel has nailed my demographic.

They have a spa and waterslides inside the hotel.

Come on - could it get any better?

Here's the Wolf Den room:

Here's the indoor water park:

Here's the spa:

Marketing Genius!

My Treasured Electronic...

I don't really consider myself an electronics nut, but there is one machine I think I would be lost without ... my DVR (digital video recorder). I absolutely love it! It allows me to tape shows if I'm too busy or too tired to watch them. Also, as a HUGE CSI fan, my DVR is set up to tape CSI anytime it is on. And if I'm in the middle of a show and someone calls me... no problem... I just push pause.

Working for a marketing firm, however, I feel somewhat guilty about my devotion to this machine. I confess - I fast-forward through the commercials! Let's face it, you can watch a show faster. However, I have noticed something interesting. When I'm fast-forwarding I pay close attention so I won't go too far, and sometimes something catches my eye. So I push play and rewind to watch the commercial. Even though I'm going through the commercials quicker, I pay much more attention to them. This could be a lesson to marketing professionals; the need to make commercials interesting, eye-catching and humorous is as high as ever. An everyday commercial will not make me rewind, but an attention-getter might make me rewind - sometimes twice.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Viacom - Layering and Targeting Geniuses!!!

You are probably sick of my kids, but I can't help myself.

You see, someone has placed a target on them and man are they are good at gaining penetration in the minds of my children.

The Backyardigans have arrived in full force in my home, in stores I shop, on my computer, in my DVD player and in my CD collection.

They are these cool little, funky dancing, really smart, funny characters that my kids have fallen in love with. My kids sing their songs, do their dances, etc., etc., etc.

This is the marketing part. Viacom puts the show on Noggin when my children were normally watching one of their other favorite shows. They show it for weeks. Then they move it to Nick Jr. (they moved audience to Nick Jr.) and advertised the crap out of Little Einsteins (convinced my kids to watch something they would not have seen on Noggin).

My wife buys CD and DVD for kids on Amazon.

While at Kohl's Department store - we see branded Backyardigans clothes - must have them.

While at Krogers - Nick Jr. Magazine this month is completely committed to The Backyardigans. Magazine is purchased. They spent two hours doing the activities in the magazine yesterday.

In Parenting magazines we read, there are ads for the little be-boppin-hip-hoppin dudes.

Man, oh, man.
We have been Targeted.

Golly yikers.
I have had messages Layered upon me.

They Are Everywhere: TV, MultiMedia, Print, Audio, retail, grocery - AAAAAHHHHH!

Just in case you are wondering, my children do not just sit in front of the TV all day, actually, they can only take so much of it.

What happens is that these new shows have replaced their other watching habits.

We limit how much TV they can watch, so they are choosing from the options they have available as to what they want to watch.

Hey Viacom, you are good.

I'd like to meet the folks behind your audience development strategy.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

State Journal Survey

For those of you in West Virginia, please help our friends at The State Journal by taking their reader survey. It's brief. Your opinions will be considered strongly in helping to shape and improve the paper.

Thanks in advance!

Click here for the survey page.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Spell Checker Irony

The built-in spelling checker program in Blogger does not recognize the word "blog." It flags it as a misspelled word. If you don't believe me, try it and see for yourself.

That is just beautifully, ironically funny to me.

Does anyone else find these types of things funny?

Your Red Carpet Welcome

Welcome to all of the first-time visitors to the Marketing Genius blog. We are glad you found us! This all began in March 2004. And since that time, we've been sharing our thoughts, beliefs and rants (most of it marketing-related) in the form of hundreds of posts or commentaries.

Some of you may have arrived here by way of the new series of Maple Creative ads, which promote this blog. We've decided to advertise this blog ... to direct people to it. This is another of the bold changes at Marketing Genius. In our ads, we're inviting our audience to see what's on our minds; to see how we think; and to see why we're different--by visiting here.

If you are here as a result of seeing this blog mentioned in one of our ads, we'd love it if you would tell us by leaving a comment. We would love it even more if you would come back often to visit ... subscribe by adding our RSS feed to your news reader ... or perhaps share this resource with a friend or two.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Swing Batter - Miss


Oh, Jeep.

Why did you wait so darn long?

You missed the sweetspot.

You missed the sales curve.

You missed the demand and you got rid of my favorite - The Boxy Cherokee.

Me thinks you missed the SUV party train.

SUV sales are plummeting (I have a Toyota Sequoia, my wallet can tell you why) and you introduce the all new, big honkin', gas guzzlin' Commander.

Swing Batter - Whif!

I know you couldn't stop it. You'd been planning to do it for quite some time. But, wow, I don't think the timing could have been any more against this product launch.

The Commander, I am afraid, is going to have a tough time of it.

As much as I love your brand, I can't understand the abandonment of the traditional, boxy Cherokee and the ill timed introduction of the Commander.

The Liberty is not a Cherokee.

People are downsizing their vehicles.

The next two quarters will be interesting.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Why Targeting Works!

The more I can refine my target customer, the more return I will receive on marketing dollars expended.

It is just that simple.

If you sell to someone that knows you and understands your value, and you can meet their service expectations - it will cost you X.

If you sell to someone that knows the service you provide, understands the value of your business, but doesn't know you - X + X.

If you sell to someone that does not know your service, doesn't understand your value proposition, has no awareness of you - uh-oh: X+X+X+X+X.

Our point - allocate the resources to target your best customer prospects - it will pay off in the end.

Brand = Relationship

When I read marketing textbooks, I'm always amazed at how complex business books, textbooks, consultants and marketing gurus make the definition of Brand, Branding, Marketing, etc.

At Maple, we approach the ideas I just wrote about from a different perspective - we boil it down and create a common dialog with our customers so that we can have a conversation about the reality, which is running a profitable business.

Here are some definitions for your consideration:

Brand = the relationship someone has with your product, service or idea.
Branding = doing things to enhance that relationship.

The difference is how we approach the whole idea of Branding, we use tactics like:

Marketing - creating an environment for sales to occur
Advertising - creating materials that communicate your unique selling proposition or promise
Public Relations - creating conversations with your target customers
Lobbying - influence and information sharing
E-business - using the utility of the Internet as an integrated function of your business strategy

In nutshell (or I prefer a Spinner - the seed of a Maple tree) that's our business and how we seek to make a difference in the businesses of those with which we work.

33 - Brand

Here's another number for you: 33.

I spent a summer working in a small Pennsylvania town.

Hauling ice, stocking food stands, mixing lemonade for company picnics - hard to believe but it was a great summer.

The small town had a brewery. They made a beer that is more popular in New York than it is in Pittsburgh.

On the inside of the green glass bottle, a recurring phrase, and a number: 33.

Is it 33 reasons to drink the beer? Is it a magical number of time, or hours, or minutes it takes to produce the product? Is it how many you need to drink over a month to really make their profits soar?

I'm not sure, but there is mystery, and I am reminded about Rolling Rock Beer, the friends I made that summer at Idelwild Park, and how many times I answered the same question, over and over that summer, from different people: Where's the bathroom?

It was hot that summer. The beer was cold. And, the Brand of Rolling Rock has a position in my mind associated some pretty simple, but memorable things - all good.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Crazy about Ketchup's a great condiment. I put a ton of it on burgers and fries. What does this have to do with marketing? One word... packaging. How many of us have gone through the drive-thru, ordered fries and received those annoying little packets of ketchup? Let's face it, it's hard enough to eat and drive, but let’s add ripping open tiny packets to the process. And where exactly are you supposed to put it, on each individual fry or do you just squeeze some in your mouth? You might tell me to eat the fries plain, but for a ketchup fan like me it's not the same.

After complaining about this problem to my husband, he said "Wouldn't it be great if ketchup came in those little dipping sauce containers?" Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner! How convenient would that be? It wouldn’t be as messy and you wouldn’t have to worry about causing a 4-car pileup. A lesson for all marketing professionals - packaging is very important! Packages need to be convenient and easy to use, no matter what the product is inside. Some companies have already learned this lesson, bravo to Smuckers who now puts jelly in a squeeze container!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I'm Already a Customer

It irks me when companies that already have my business send direct-mail solicitations to my home, asking for my business. The list of culprits includes Cingular (my cell phone service provider), Capital One (my credit card), Charter Communications (my local cable company) and others.

First, it is wasteful. These companies are wasting money on materials and postage by sending offers to me (and others like me who are already customers).

It is sloppy, imprecise. Is it really that hard to cross reference your marketing list with your list of customers? The fact that I AM a customer and they don't KNOW that I'm a customer sends a message to me that their company is not a well-managed, high-quality organization. In marketing terminology, it is brand damage.