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, August 30, 2010

Oliver's Personal Brand - a Letter to Gillian

All of the cutting-edge social networking in the world pales in comparison to the effect that a thougthful, personalized one-to-one interaction can have on your personal brand. Nothing illustrates that more clearly than this wonderful, true story I’m about to share with you. To begin this story, allow me to introduce you to the characters:

Glenn is a personal friend of mine, a college classmate. We attended West Virginia University (WVU) together in the mid-1980′s.

Gillian is Glenn’s 10 year old daughter, a sixth grader.

Oliver Luck is the newly-hired athletic director at WVU. He also starred at quarterback at WVU in the early 1980′s. Oliver went on to play in the NFL. His playing days were followed by a successful career in sports management, notably with the NFL – Europe league.

Now, let’s proceed with the story. Glenn is a great father. He frequently takes his daughter and son on road trips for fun and education. He is especially fond of exposing his children, who presently reside in New Jersey, to his former “stomping grounds” in West Virginia.

Recently, Glenn and Gillian took a trip to Morgantown to visit WVU. Following this trip, his daughter was left with a question. As Glenn explained:

My daughter is convinced that she is going to WVU even though she is just going into the 6th grade. She plays pretty competitive travel softball. I pointed out to her that WVU currently does not have a softball team, and she asked why. I explained that a university-level sports team is very expensive to run and she asked me who she should talk to about the university getting a team. I told her to write a letter to the new Athletic Director, Oliver Luck. So she did… and he responded!

Who knows if she will keep playing or ever play at the college level. But I think an awful lot of Oliver Luck for taking the time to draft a very detailed response, and for him to offer her up advice on her future. Pretty cool!

Now, here’s the good part. The following is the text from a personal letter that Athletic Director Oliver Luck sent in response to Gillian:

Dear Gillian:

Thank you very much for your letter of July 22. I congratulate you for taking
the initiative to send a letter to me–that’s very impressive for a 10-year
old. Regarding your issue and women’s softball; I can tell you that I would love
to add a number of sports to the WVU Dept. of Athletics, including softball. It
would be a great step for us to be in a position to add sports like men’s and
women’s golf and men’s and women’s lacrosse as well as the sports that we
eliminated a few years ago – men’s tennis and men’s track and cross country.

I am sure that you understand the financial implications involved in
adding additional sports. We estimate that any additional sport will involve at
least $1 million in operating costs and of course there would be significant
capital costs required to build a new field, locker rooms, etc.

West Virginia University prides itself on having a financially
self-sufficient Dept. of Athletics, one of only a dozen schools in the nation to
make the claim. My predecessor, Ed Pastilong, did an incredible job of
maintaining this “fiscal independence” and I am determined to continue this
under my watch.

Gillian, as I learn more about the Dept. of Athletics and the overall
University, I will begin the process of looking at the possibility of additional
sports being added. Will we add any in the future? The short answer is I don’t
yet know. But I can tell you we will look at the possibility.

Please allow me to give you one last bit of advice, something which I have
shared with my four kids, including my oldest children who are competing in
college athletics: choose a school primarily for academics, not athletics. You
want to come out of college as prepared as you can to enter the work force
(or perhaps attend graduate school). Your academic success is going to be the
key to your success in life. Don’t get me wrong – athletics is tremendous and
you will learn a good bit about yourself as you compete in junior high and high
school. But you should always focus on your academics.

Thank you again for your letter and I hope to see you enroll at WVU in the
Class of 2022!


Oliver Luck – Director of Athletics

How is Oliver Luck’s personal brand trending these days? No job is without challenges, but Mr. Luck’s reputation is certainly strong and rising, in light of this story and (presumably) many others like it. In conclusion, I will share with you the fact that Glenn distributed this letter to 200 of his friends via e-mail. Without a doubt, he and Gillian have shared this story–and sung the praises of Oliver Luck–with hundreds more.

Incidentally, I met Oliver Luck at a summer football camp at WVU in the early 1980′s; I was impressed with then–now, even more so!

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Upcoming Presentation: WV Broadcasters Association

Confession time: I love presentations! Some may call it a sickness. To each his own.

The WV Broadcasters Association's annual meeting takes place this weekend. I've been asked to present to them about ways to utilize social media to engage and excite their audience.

I'm excited about the topic and the request, which signifies that our broadcasters are ready to embrace social media; they do not view it as a threat. Smart position for them to take. I hope my presentation will expose them to some best practices and give them a few new ideas to take home and implement.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reach Beyond Your Network on West Virginia Day

Continuing on this creative tradition, Jason Keeling is leading WV bloggers and social media mavens on another exciting project aimed at helping to build a better West Virginia. What better occasion than the state's 147th birthday to harness the power of social networks to do something good for the Mountain State! We've all been invited to submit a request. I look forward to seeing what everyone needs and helping out in any way I can.

So here's my request: I need to get connected to Ivanka Trump or her publicist for an opportunity / idea related to my recently published book that I co-authored with Emily Bennington. I believe our book can really fit with and fill a need on "The Celebrity Apprentice."
West Virginia Day (June 20) provides an ideal time to celebrate the Mountain State’s many unique qualities, but it also offers us the opportunity to do something for the state’s betterment.

The online community is invited to join this year’s “a Better West Virginia Network” effort, intended to help connect organizations, businesses, and individuals according to their need(s).

For the most part, everyone has some need or challenge that can be solved through networking, and the Internet is an excellent medium for publicizing such needs and generating worthwhile connections.

Maybe your nonprofit needs more volunteers. Maybe your business needs new clients and/or employees. Perhaps you need a new job. Maybe you’re looking for someone with specialized knowledge to complete a project. Perhaps your community has a specific need.

In some cases, making local connection(s) could suffice, while other instances may require help from outside of the state. Think locally, nationally, or globally, whichever applies best to your circumstances.

Here’s how to participate within the “a Better West Virginia Network.”

First, identify and describe the need(s) of your organization, business,
community, or individual circumstance.

Second, publish this information on your blog or website, and forward the link to me via email: jason(at)keelingstrategic(dot)com.

Third, return to this blog on West Virginia Day, where a list of the various submissions will be posted.

Lastly, visitors will be encouraged to peruse the compiled list and help make any connections.

Hop on over to A Better WV for full details.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Maple Marketing Campaign for Fairmont Federal Credit Union Grabs National Honors

As we've stated before, it is fine to win awards within our industry. Back in the early days at Maple Creative, we would get a big boost from Crystal Awards and Addys. As time goes by, however, it seems much more gratifying when our clients win awards for marketing within their professional groups and trade associations.
Such was the case again recently when Fairmont Federal Credit Union picked up a pair of Merit Awards in the Diamond Awards Competition at the 2010 CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Washington, DC.

Fairmont Federal Credit Union won one Merit Award for its direct-mailer and another for its TV advertising series (campaign), both designed by Maple Creative. The direct-mail piece and the TV ad campaign were but two tactical elements in an integrated marketing campaign for FFCU's Rewards Checking. The campaign was remarkably successful during an unquestionably challenging national and local economic times. In just over a year, FFCU increased membership by 30% and increased deposits to record levels.

The keys to success were a strong service offering (Rewards Checking offered great rates and low/no fees for new members), a tightly integrated creative campaign and outstanding coordination between FFCU management and the Maple team. The awards are a nice verification of outstanding success in financial services marketing. But at Maple Creative, nothing is more gratifying than results--especially when those results are of the record-breaking magnitude that our client achieved!

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Don't Let Social Networking Damage Your Personal Brand

The following were actually posted by employees on social media sites from their workstations, during business hours:

“Staff meeting is over. Thanks for sucking the life out of me–again.” [Brandon]
Ummm, hello, Brandon. Are you really that unhappy? Are you aware that your message can be read as: Brandon is a reactive, whiny drama-king who lacks the gumption to leave a job that sucks?

“Just hanging out here on Facebook – waiting for them to give me something to work on.” [Allison]
Really, Allison? Did you leave your brain at home this morning? I’d suggest you will find it hidden underneath that sack of ambition, which you also forgot to bring to work today.

And this now-infamous example from of a young woman who was fired by her Facebook-friend-boss:
OMG I HATE MY JOB!!! My boss is a total pervvy wanker always making me do $hit stuff just to pi$$ me off!! WANKER!!

Obviously, she forgot that she had Friend’d her boss. Do take a moment and click over to read the boss’ response, which is classic!

The stories of so-called professionals getting fired, suspended, or disciplined as a result of what they posted, Tweeted, updated, chatted, or shared on social media sites are becoming more frequent and more outrageous. An article last Fall on Mashable, citing stats from a Proofpoint study, indicate that roughly 1 out of every 8 companies (12%) have fired an employee for reasons related to social networking. The rate of occurrence has doubled in a year’s time.

This is only going to worsen as GPS/location-based apps (like Foursquare and Brightkite) that run on our iPhones and Blackberries tell the world (and our employer) where we are.
Remember: In many cases, your phones are paid for by your company so it’s not hard to imagine the following exchange in the all-too-near future--

Boss: Dave, you weren’t really attending your aunt’s funeral yesterday, now were you?

Dave: What do you mean?

Boss: Well, unless they had the funeral at Wrigley Field, it looks like you enjoyed a Cubs double-header.

Dave (now perspiring): No way. I swear.

Boss (tossing a screen print at his soon-to-be fired employee): Dave, it’s all right here on the GPS report that we get from your Blackberry. And you might want to think about turning off Foursquare when you’re playing hooky – from your next job.

Do you know your company’s social media policy? Are employees allowed to spend time on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube while at work? Or are such practices forbidden?

We can complain about “Big Brother” policies by employers. We can cry about how it’s wrong for management to “spy” on us. But here’s what it all boils down to: when you are on company time, you are on the company dime. The employer makes the rules and, when you accept a job, you accept their rules. So don’t allow your social media activities to undermine your success. Be smart and be informed – or your next Tweet may be in search of a job!

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Maple Marketing Campaign for CAMC Garners National Recogntion

Our campaign for The Fertility Center at CAMC was recognized by HealthLeaders as the "Best Service Line Marketing," earning the Platinum Award (pictured at left) in the large hospital category. This is great news! We're pleased to share this honor with our client. From our view, it's fine to shine--but making our clients look good is a far greater accomplishment.

Details about the awards and the campaign are included in this story from

There seems to be a universal formula for hospital TV ads: a reassuring voice speaking over sappy music while static stock-photo images of faux doctors and patients flash across the screen. Radio, print, and outdoor spots are cut from the same cloth. But when hospitals lighten up, the resulting advertisements are often more memorable and water cooler-worthy than their stuffy counterparts.

Of course, not all hospital ads can be lighthearted—there's a fine line between humor and bad taste. But there are some service lines—even sensitive ones—that, if handled carefully, can be advertised in an engaging, playful way.

Charleston (WV) Area Medical Center (CAMC) took a fun approach to marketing its fertility program, which I covered in the March issue of Healthcare Marketing Advisor. The ad promoting its male infertility solutions sports the tagline "strong swimmers" and features a baby wearing blue swimming goggles. The ad promoting its female infertility solutions uses "a good egg" as a tagline and features a baby crawling out of an eggshell. [Full story here]

There's antoher chapter to this story. We'll share that with you next time!

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Queasy feeling?

File this under the category of "reach for something new and big." I posted this essay over at Professional Studio 365, where I do some blogging alongside co-author and former Mapleonian Emily Bennington, as advice for young professionals. Once you read it, you'll see that the lessons are equally relevant for marketing professionals and business owners, too!

When is the last time you felt such pressure, such adrenaline and such anxiety that you were literally sick to your stomach? If your answer is, “Not recently and thank goodness for that,” hang on just a minute. You might want to question your response.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that frightens you.” I buy that. I have her slogan on my favorite coffee mug. In fact, I have taken Eleanor’s challenge and adapted it. In the words of yours truly, “Do one thing every six months that nearly makes you puke.”

My theory is that queasy can be a very good thing. If you are stretching yourself to grow and develop…if you are pushing and expanding your personal boundaries…you need to feel queasy once in a while.

To be clear, this discussion is about more than nervous apprehension. This queasy thing is far beyond a quickened pulse and sweaty palms. (Although those are cool, too.) We all feel a little nervous adrenaline from time to time: a first date, doing the scripture reading at church, an important sales presentation or a training seminar that you are leading.

By contrast, I am talking about fear, i.e. being so scared you feel like someone has dropped a couple of lead bars on your stomach. Maybe even a pronounced ringing in the ears. Nervous apprehension times 50. The queasy feeling happens when we are threatened… with failure, injury, embarrassment, ridicule or rejection.

So I ask again, when is the last time you felt queasy? For me, it was just a few days ago on the eve of the 2010 CrossFit Games VA-WV-DC Sectional Qualifier. I had entered this competition, designed to test elite athletes for the purpose of determining the fittest man and woman in the world. Let’s be clear: an elite athlete I am not. A writer? Sure. A marketing expert? You bet. Admittedly, I have always played sports, but any progress or accomplishments for me have always been hard-fought and slow in coming. Despite such personal limitations, I set a goal to compete in the games back in April 2009. It was an intentional plan to push myself and to stretch for something big.

Cut to the grocery store last Friday night. Produce aisle. Out of the blue, my field of vision gets weird, and the surroundings start to go swirly. Something in my stomach suddenly weighs 50 pounds and is pressing down unbearably on my guts. I tell my wife, “Let me have the cart. I’m either going to throw up or faint.” A minute later, as I’m shuffling along the supermarket, clutching the shopping cart for dear life, I realize that I am very afraid. The next day, I would be thrust into an intense situation, competing against guys half my age (and not just any guys – the most elite athletes in the mid-Atlantic region), doing intense activities that might cause me to fail, get hurt, or embarrass myself.

Regardless, I smile and say to myself, “Hello, queasy. I’m glad you’re back.”

When we push ourselves out of our comfort zone and strive for something new and great, we truly grow. Our confidence increases. Our mood improves. We pump our bodies full of endorphins and other positive neuro-chemicals. Most of all, we suppress our fears and erase doubts. The queasiness, of course, goes away, but the confidence remains, spilling over into the rest of our lives, boosting our performance across all our domains.

How can you make yourself queasy? You might start by focusing on conquering a fear. Take a public speaking class. Go skydiving. Show up at open mic night. Go climb a mountain. C’mon – what are you afraid of?

P.S. – I completed the CrossFit Games competition, finishing respectably in the middle of the pack. A week later, I am still sky high, full of confidence–and still smiling.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Tag! You've just been touched by our brand. The Marketing Genius blog is one of many touchpoints for Maple Creative. And hey- we are thrilled that you're here!

A touchpoint is any interaction that you audience has with your brand. Each touchpoint is an opportunity. It can be a great, positive experience. Conversely a touchpoint can be disappointing or harmful, serving to detract from your brand and its perceived value.

Sure, your Web site is a touchpoint. And quite obviously, your office (or store) is a touchpoint, too. Sales reps are touchpoints, no doubt.

Following are a few other touchpoints that are easy to overlook:

Invoices and billing statements - Are these confusing and intricate? are they consistent with your brand identity? do they say, "Thank you"?

Voicemail greeting - Is it dull, plain and void of emotion? or is it unique and energetic?

Sponsorship presence and community outreach - Are these helping you to touch potential clients in the right venues and at the right time?

Former employees - What are these folks saying about your company and its leadership?

Vendors and suppliers - Are you perceived as paying your bills on time? Deemed to be fair, ethical and of solid integrity? Vendors talk ... and they have tremendous reach.

Tech support line or help desk - Do these represent your business well? Do they consistently fulfill the front-end promises that you are making ... or do they tend to disappoint?

Touchpoints can work for you--or against you. The case for most businesses is that some touchpoints are winning customers, while others are turning people off. It's rarely all or none.

Take an hour or two and map all of the touchpoints for your business. Evaluate each and every one on the list. Be sure to put yourself in the customer's (or prospect's) shoes. Better yet--get some external (i.e., real live customer) feedback on each touchpoint. Figure out which touchpoints need some TLC. Then, apply the leader's touch to fix or reinvent.

You may even find that you are lacking some touchpoints. For example, one client of ours felt that they weren't converting enough sales opportunities. They believed they need to add a couple helpful marketing touchpoints on the pre-sale side of things. The goal was to warm up the prospects, so that they are more informed and more inclined to do business, prior to the first sales contact. We helped them create those additional, informative touchpoints and the success rate grew! That's the Midas touch that good marketing can deliver.