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.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wake-Up Call

Is there marketing genius in a wake-up call? Have you ever been WOW'd by a wake-up call? This morning, I was.

'Good morning. This is your 7AM wakeup call. Join us for breakfast in the Commonwealth Café for the best-tasting omelet you'll ever have in your life.'

This came from the automated wakeup call srvice at The Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.

Most wakeup calls consist of either No Message...or a Boring, Same-Old, Same-Old message. You know it as well as I do.

Kudos to the marketing genius at The Galt House (a very nice hotel, by the way) for creating a wakeup greeting that is unique, one that presents a tasteful offer. Why be boring and dull--ever?

All morning, that 'omelet of a lifetime' kept popping into my mind. I'll bet the cafe is selling omelets 'like hotcakes.'

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

More on Dry Cleaners, Poor Customer Service and Bad Attitudes

This is from a local marketing genius who works for a non-profit organization in Charleston, West Virginia. She's a real pro ... experienced and savvy. She gets it. If she sees this post and chooses to identify herself that's great. We'll leave it up to her.

Recently, I have experienced a definite "the customer is always wrong" attitude ... it is day and night between businesses where people really hustle for business. In places like Chicago, there is a lot of competition and a lot of opportunity, and client service is strongly ingrained in the population. In other places, folks sometimes behave like they are in a socialist country, where there isn't any incentive to work hard because the rewards are limited. Such attitude can really hold a place back from progress and growth.

Maybe it's the lack of competition or workforce challenges, but "my give a damn's busted" is definitely the approach of many business owners and workers alike. My husband and I have experienced this with lawyers and other professionals, down to cashiers and waiters.

Here's some recent examples:

Yesterday I went to Petsmart to get some stuff for my cat. One of my items rang up $2 more than the price on the display sign. When I pointed this out to the cashier, she got huffy, accused me of switching prices and then reluctantly said, "OK, I guess I'll refund your $2." I thought this could be a "teachable moment" for the manager, so I very politely relayed my experience and pointed out that they weren't doing me any favors, because the law requires customers to be charged the correct price. She didn't get it either and got very defensive.

My husband took a very expensive pair of pants to the drycleaners. He had just got them from Kelley's and they had been worn once. When he picked them up, he took them out of the bag and noticed that the cuffs were basically shredded at the bottom and the pockets were mangled. The owner of the shop was outraged that he had the temerity to inspect them in the shop and screamed "We do excellent work" and blamed Kelley's, saying they sell crappy merchandise. When my husband said he would be happy with just a refund of the cleaning costs, the lady threatened to call the police.

I'm loathe to pick on my new hometown, and I've certainly had customer service problems in Chicago, but I hate for this region to be held back due to this defensive attitude.

Just blowing off steam.....

Okay, marketing geniuses, what do you think? Have you had similar experiences? What is that difference-maker "ingredient?"

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Was Obama a Marketing Genius?

Now that the political campaign dust has settled, let's take an inside look at the Barack Obama presidential campaign, from a marketing perspective. One of the fundamental aspects of a great marketing campaign is having a multi-faceted, layered marketing plan. A great marketing plan synthesizes and integrates several tactical layers. Let's take a look at what the Obama campaign implemented in the 2008 Presidential election:

1- A consistency of brand - the Obama identity, which was carried out with superb consistency (see below):

2- An effective positioning of the brand - "Hope." It struck an emotional chord. It conveyed his unique selling proposition (USP). It was available. He owned it.

3- Rich, fully developed back story, underneath it all - Obama's two books: The Audacity of Hope; Dreams from My Father. These works told the story in full detail.

4- Web - an unquestionably superb Web site

5- Grassroots engagement - how many yard signs, T-shirts and bumpers stickers did you see?

6- Earned media - 597,622 hits on Google's News search, as depicted on the Google Trends graphic below:

7- Advertising - did anyone see the Obama infomercial during election week?

8 - Social networking - the fact that Obama raised more money in the month of February 2008 than was raised ever before in any political campaign says it all. During that same month, he attended zero fundraiser events. In the words of his opposing campaign manager, "When Obama hit 1 million registered supporters on his Facebook group, we knew that the game had been changed ...that it was over," speaks volumes.

Regardless of whom you voted for, it is hard to dispute the fact that this was a genius marketing campaign. I say this in no way to diminish the man's success, his beliefs, his tactics ... or the outcome. Congratulations, President-Elect Obama!

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wal-Mart's New Brand Icon

Has anyone noticed the new symbol that Wal-Mart has begun using lately? And, oh by the way, it's now Walmart, instead of Wal-Mart. They dropped the hypen.

It's that small yellowish starburst "thingy" (shown in the image at left). I'll refer to it as their brand icon. And while it does follow the old Walmart star with some degree of connection (which is good), I am not loving the design.

Instantly when I saw it, the icon reminded me of another brand. It took about 2.5 seconds for my brain to recall the resemblance.

It quickly reminded me of the Holiday Inn brand. The iconography is pretty similar. The new Walmart starburst icon suggests the old Holiday Inn icon--at least in my brain it does.

Now, I'm not saying that the two icons are identical. They're not. But if I thought it, there's bound to be 10,000 others who will have the same impression. That's not good.

When you have a budget the magnitude of Walmart's, maybe you just assume that you can erase and overcome those other-brand associations through the sheer number of impressions. It possible, but it's an expensive proposition. It would have been better to design something more unique.

Walmart will spend tens of millions to re-brand the starburst symbol in our brains, reprogramming us through visual repetitions so that some time in the future a yellowish-gold starburst object (one blogger referred to it as a "cat butt") will make us think primarily of Walmart. Gee, I can hardly wait. [sarcasm]

Are any marketing geniuses out there more excited about this than I am?

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Follow-up to "The Way We Leave"

Back in September, I shared my story of how I "broke up" with my drycleaner.

Drycleaner "P" (my former drycleaner) blew it. Their lack of attention to detail, caused their quality to slip. Their front-line service personnel just were not friendly enough. I deserve someone who recognizes me and knows my name--and I used to get that at Drycleaner "P."

Cut to the chase ... and here's the news: they went out of business at the end of October. It appears that I was not the only one who quit them. Meanwhile, I am perfectly happy over at Drycleaner "G." My wife just commented on how much less we are spending on drycleaning.

Marketing genius takeaway: Never lose touch with the pulse of your customers. How much do they love you today? And how do you know this?

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Higher Education Online - More Great Insights from Contributor Jennifer Wood

In case you missed the fabulous first part of this mini-series from Jennifer Wood, Web site and enrollment marketing coordinator for the University of Charleston, you can check it out here. Last month, Jennifer took us inside of her audience. Here, she gets into the nuts and bolts of marketing a university to prospective students. Jen is a longstanding member of the Marketing Genius family and a genius marketer in her own right. We're thrilled to have this guest contribtuion from Jen!

The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

If you ask the important question of “How did you hear about us?” then you will have insight into how students find you. If you realize they are not finding out through electronic means, then I would say that you need to look at what strategies you’re carrying out electronically. If your web presence is lacking or difficult to find or navigate, your chances that students find out about you via electronic means is probably fairly slim. Tracking communications of who you send what to, how they receive it, how many conversions you have (applicants / deposits / registrants), you can find which tasks result in good leads and enrollment. This question can help you figure out where you should spend, cut, reallocate, etc. It’s interesting how much information and insight you can obtain through one question.

In higher education marketing, it’s now becoming evident that students are applying for college differently than before. In the “good old days”, students filled out an inquiry card or completed an online form to receive more information about the school in a follow up communication. We have seen a shift from that original process. Now students go right for the online application and avoid the other means of initial contact, at least electronically. Our web analytics show that students who complete online applications are twice as likely to be new visitors instead of returning visitors. So what does that say about our marketing strategy? How do we shift our promotional materials to accommodate that shift? Honestly, we’re still figuring that out.

As I write this blog post, I’m rethinking our electronic marketing strategy here at UC. Many times, daily operations take precedence over other marketing aspirations and get put on the back burner. I use that “excuse” all the time. My goal now is to find out what our resources are to improve our tracking system of applicants or “customers”. This of course, it will need to be an integrated effort with admissions, student life, communications, the registrar, and probably the IT department (to make appropriate changes to our systems).

So, I’d like to hear from folks out there….Anyone else experiencing this shift to “secret” or “discreet” customers? They don’t browse around first…they go right for the application or shopping cart? What is your conversion rate of these folks?

I’d love to find out how other industries are coping with this shift and how they are marketing through this new process. Not all questions in life can be answered merely by asking them. However, in marketing, many customers want to have a dialogue about their choices.

And for a bit of fun and humor on your way out, check out this really illustrative YouTube video, "Breaking Up," which shines some light on marketing dialogue.

I look forward to hearing from you with a comment here, or via e-mail:
Jennifer Wood

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