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, December 23, 2004

Matthew Homann

Matt Homann called today - just to say "hello" and introduce himself. What's the big deal about that?

Well, you see, prior to his call, I did not know Matt. Some small number of minutes prior to his call, I had fired off a short e-mail message to Matt, praising him for the new look and style of his blog. In an infinitesimal matter of time, the phone rang - and it was Matt - just calling to say "hi" and "thanks." That's really cool... and also very kind of Matt.

Many of you are still saying (or thinking), "Nice form. Dale Carnegie would have been proud ... but what's the big deal?"

Here's the big deal. The big HUGE deal is the uniqueness and immediacy of the blogosphere. Blogging just shrunk my world - in a good way. In less than five minutes, my message traveled to Illinois, was read by Matt and then my phone rang. A hundred years ago, this exchange of communication would have taken a week--IF we knew one another. But really, we would never have known one another ... nor would we have been able to publish business ideas and philosophies ... nor would we have been able to gather news from around the globe into a single point for reading. None of it would have been possible. NONE.

What a cool world we live in! What a cool time to be alive!

By the way: I read Matt's site The Non-Billable Hour regularly. It's nothing short of fantastic. While Matt's work world is one of law and law firms, his ideas, observations and analysis are applicable to most business development or marketing situations. He also conceives and implements unique feature items (like the Five by Five) and content formats. It's catchy, sticky stuff that's way ahead of the pack.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Our Continuing Rant on McDonalds

Laura Ries had a great post on Starbucks, McDonald's and the perils of brand extensions today. (By the way, I saw Andy eat a large fries at McDonald's today. Tee hee hee.)

Here's an excerpt from Laura's blog:

In 1966, the average McDonald’s did $275,000 in annual sales. Factoring in inflation that would be $1,533,000 in 2003 dollars. Considering the fact that the average McDonald’s did just $1,633,00 in sales last year, it’s hard to see the advantage of adding those dozen of additional products.

The answer is not to mess with success. Strong brands stay focused. Strong brands stand for singular ideas in the mind. Starbucks should stay focused on coffee. Look at the success of their recent Pumpkin coffee promotion. So forget the egg muffins Howard and stick to the great coffee.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Feed Burner

Okay, I confess, I am an engineer by degree. Every once in a while that old engineering part of my brain rears its geeky head.

I like to get "under the hood" of my blog and tinker with things. Most recently, I got on this quest to find a way to get my blog to produce a true RSS feed. I use "My Yahoo" for my news reader/aggregator, and it could not find this blog. I was frustrated, embarrassed and peeved. So I did like any good engineer would and drilled way down deep into the tech support and help menus at Blogger. I got to a point where Blogger basically said, "If you want more support on RSS, we recommend that you go to Feed Burner."

So, I did.

At Feed Burner, I found a really in-depth, technical tool for bloggers. Yet, it was incredibly easy to use. I got my RSS functionality that I was seeking - plus a whole lot more. It also has this really cool and accurate Blog traffic metering function, plus tons of tools to help you better publicize your Blog. Kewl!

The best part: all of it is point/click and cut/paste. And it worked!

As of about 5 days ago, I began publishing with an RSS feed (in addition to the Atom feed that comes standard with Blogger). Now, I can find my Blog on my "My Yahoo." A bit narcissistic, I admit. Most importantly, my traffic is way up!

For those who may be wondering - yes, I did send props to the FeedBurner crew via their feedback button. And yes, they received it and responed very quickly.

WOW! (And thanks!)

Give Your B2B Prospects Time to Develop

Brian Carroll posted an excellent article at the Marketing Profs blog today. Here's an excerpt that really hit home with me:

Although more and more companies recognize the need for and actively seek better lead generation, a ton of leads doesn't guarantee increased sales. In the complex sale that dominates business-to-business marketing, the actual selling occurs when the sales person isn't even present.

Startling as it may seem, longer-term leads (future opportunities), which are often ignored by salespeople, represent 77% of potential sales, according to research.

Most inquirers don't buy right away, but they do buy. An in-depth study for Cahners Business Information of 40,000 inquiries generated by ads and press releases in magazines serving the manufacturing marketplace found that six months after inquiring, 23% of the subjects had bought the product or service, either from the promoter or from a competitor. An additional 67% indicated that they still intended to buy.

Furthermore, of those from earlier inquiries who bought, 11% purchased within three months of inquiring, 17% purchased within four to six months, 25% purchased within seven to 12 months and 47% bought in a year or later.

Nevertheless, many salespeople believe that advertising inquires are not worth following up. Why? Probably because a majority are likely from longer-term prospects, and salespeople generally need more immediate sales to meet monthly or quarterly quotas and earn commissions.

If inquiries are simply passed on to salespeople, reps, dealers or distributors for follow-up, beware. You may be leaving as many as 8 out of 10 sales prospects on the table for your competitors.

Couldn't have said it better, Brian! Bravo!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Spice Channel

I've been following the marketing activities of McCormick lately. Their direct mail to our house, prompted all of this. That led me to their website. (And by the way, McCormick is keeping its website fresh, populating it with new, useful content regularly. Right now, McCormick has a Top 10 List of Holiday Baking Ideas on its site.)

Anyway ... last week I saw a McCormick television commercial. I think it was shown on cable as I was watching a program on The Learning Channel (TLC). McCormick must really be pursuing Generation X. They've found me, that's for sure.

My hat is off to McCormick. Great marketing across mulitple media/channels.


Students of language - especially male language and behavior - will find this article from The Guardian amusing. It is an essay about the many meanings and uses of the word "Dude." The only thing that tops it, without question is the famous "Dude" skit from the SNL archives with Carvey and Sandler.

Enjoy, Dude!


Associated Press Writer

PITTSBURGH - Dude, you've got to read this. A linguist from the University of Pittsburgh has published a scholarly paper deconstructing and deciphering the word ``dude,'' contending it is much more than a catchall for lazy, inarticulate surfers, skaters, slackers and teenagers.

An admitted dude-user during his college years, Scott Kiesling said the four-letter word has many uses: in greetings (``What's up, dude?''); as an exclamation (``Whoa, Dude!''); commiseration (``Dude, I'm so sorry.''); to one-up someone (``That's so lame, dude.''); as well as agreement, surprise and disgust (``Dude.'').

Kiesling says in the fall edition of American Speech that the word derives its power from something he calls cool solidarity - an effortless kinship that's not too intimate.

Cool solidarity is especially important to young men who are under social pressure to be close with other young men, but not enough to be suspected as gay.

In other words: Close, dude, but not that close. "It's like man or buddy, there is often this male-male addressed term that says, 'I'm your friend but not much more than your friend,'" said Kiesling, whose research focuses on language and masculinity.

So, dude, you want to read the entire story?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Tom Peters' Re-Imagine Summit 2005

Thanks to friend/client/advisor Rob Godbey of GodbeyWorks, I am headed to Manchester, Vermont this weekend to participate in Tom Peters' Re-Imagine Summit 2005. This is nothing short of the thrill of a lifetime for me!

I discovered Tom Peters in 1986, when I was required to read In Search of Excellence as part of a college course. Since that time, I have been an avid follower and reader. Recently, I finished reading Tom's new book, Re-Imagine! It is a book that is a true game changer, as much for its layout as its great content. I strongly believe that Peters has created a new paradigm--one that is enriched with great design and visuality--for business books. At least I hope that it has.

The chance to work directly with Tom Peters and 30 other business leaders from North America is an honor and a privilege.

And from a marketing perspective, my hat is off to marketing genius Rob Godbey. As if there was any doubt before his generous invitation to attend the Re-Imagine Summit, it is doubtful that I will ever use any other management consultant to help provide answers and address challenges that we face at Maple Creative.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Psychographic Micro-Targeting Strategy Key to President's Victory

What an interesting study in marketing, at least in my opinion, to closely examine the Republican victory in the 2004 presidential election! The New York Times ran a great story today about the strategy that led to the Bush victory. The victory was less about politics, promises and public apperances, than it was about the kinds of tactics that we use every day in marketing to help our clients succeed.

In the weeks that followed the election, I have heard Andy Card and others from the Bush team talk about how they focused on reaching and persuading undecided, likely voters in exurban areas. It's what won them the White House.

Well, talk about specificity. Wow!

It's far easier to talk about an undecided, likely-voter, exurban resident than it is to identify one. I am more than just a little impressed that the Bush team used marketing/research tactics like psychographic analyis and cohort analyis to precisely pinpoint those most critical, must-win precincts. And while it's tough to identify such a specific group, it is even trickier to understand that group with sufficient depth to be able to persuade it. Therefore, I am downright blown away by the fact that the Republican marketing geniuses were able to drill down into data to discover how to most effectively communicate with this voting sector.
The whole NYT story is excellent, but here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

Donny Deutsch, the New York advertising guru, said that now, "the selling of a candidate is no different from the smart media buying for toothpaste and automobiles, especially as people fragment their media habits."

As the Bush team analyzed the data, stark differences between the viewing habits of Republicans and Democrats quickly emerged. The channels with the highest proportion of Democrats were Court TV and the Game Show Network; for Republicans, Speedvision and the Golf Channel.

During the week, Republicans switch off the tube earlier than Democrats do. (Republicans who stay up are more likely to tune in to Jay Leno, while Democrats flock to David Letterman.) Such revelations persuaded the Bush team to alter its media-buying strategy. In 2000, the campaign spent 95 percent of its media budget on network television; this year, that dropped to 70 percent.

View accompanying graphic.

The victorious Bushies used such insights to help formulate messages and depict settings that would resonate strongly and meaningfully with the desired (micro-targeted) sectors of the audience that were crucial to Bush's success. It also helped the campaign directors to know where to focus advertising resources ... and where not to use ads to get their persuasive messages across.

A final observation ... the article also speaks to the power and beauty of a multi-faceted marketing strategy in which messages are synchronized across all tactics. This is nirvana for a marketing 'geek' like me:

Mr. Dowd of the Bush campaign agreed up to a point. "What is discussed in earned media is more important than what's on the paid media," he said of news versus advertising. "But if they are in concert and the message is consistent, it has a tremendous effect."

Spoken like a true marketing genius, Mr. Dowd!

Again, the entire story is well worth a read.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

More on McCormick

If you read my previous post about McCormick's masterful mailing, you know what this is all about. If not, you may read it here.

Two follow-up matters:

1- My wife said, "Now all they need is a spice detector so that we can figure out some of the more cryptic date codes on the containers."

She's right. That is a great idea, and McCormick already has the equivalent of it. They call it the Date Decoder, and it is found on their website.

2- I just completed the "audit" of our spice cabinets and spice racks. How many tins and jars hit the wastebasket? Twelve. A dozen!

Yes - that's 12 spices that bit the dust. And as the smiling McCormick marketing genius knows all too well, 12 that will be repurchased sooner - instead of later.

Empty Your Spice Cabinet

About two weeks ago, I received a small booklet in the mail from McCormick. I had never received anything from McCormick, except spices. The company had certainly never mailed anything to me. "What could McCormick possibly need to tell me," I wondered as I opened the booklet?

A quick scan of the McCorkmick mail piece revealed the following bit of new information:

Spices and seasonings expire.

Who knew? I certainly did not. I guess I may have had a hunch, but I had never seen anything to clarify the theory. In fact, to be completely honest, I will admit that there are spice bottles in my cabinet that have survived more household moves than I can count. I love to cook, but I don't cook as often anymore as I'd like. As a result there are seasonings that I have only touched while packing into boxes at moving time, only to ever touch again during the unpacking process at the new residence. There is one bottle of Cajun season mix that has been in my possession since the early 1990s, which is at least seven houses ago.

So spices and seasonings expire, huh? So says McCormick.

Much like medications and milk and other perishables, spices must be discarded once the shelf life has elapsed. It is a fact. It turns out that some spices are good for 2 years ... others for 3-4 years. McCormick had enclosed a small, detachable guide, which I suppose they expect recipients to keep in their spice cabinets or recipe boxes. The chart listed the shelf life for various types of seasonings, herbs and spices.

Wow! As a consumer, I was feeling more than a little motivated. Let's say that I felt the need to investigate my spice rack for signs of extinction. Plus, I felt a sincere appreciation for the information that McCormick had communicated to me. The booklet did not cause me to question McCormick's motive for sharing the information. The content, design, tone and style combined for only one purpose, in my estimation, which was to help improve the taste of my creative kitchen concoctions.

Double Wow! As a marketing consultant, I was feeling more than a little impressed! Prior to opening my mail, I was not thinking about spices or seasonings. Now I am.

Prior to reading the McCormick booklet, I was not about to toss any of my spice tins or jars. Now, I undoubtedly will toss more than a few. Of course, as a result of the actions that I am about to take, McCormick will sell (to me and many others) additional units of spices, herbs & seasonings. Without the informative booklet, those new sales would have been blocked by aging tins of basil and oregano, sitting in the cabinets of uninformed consumers like me.

Great marketing, McCormick! You may accept my praise in the form of dollars spent on your products.

Help with Headlines

Ran across a great column on the importance of headlines at BeTuitive. It's by Susan E. Fisher, editorial director for BeTuititve Marketing. I read her blog regularly. Kudos to Susan on a great lesson or refresher course for us all!

The full text of the column is shown below.

If the Headline Sucks, You’re History
By Susan E. Fisher

If you are like most ambitious writers – or you are the person who relies on their work – chances are you sweat, furrow your brow and stay up way-too-late fretting over the perfect copy.

Many a caffeine-driven writer worries; they wonder how to best button-hole important sources, ask probing questions, capture local color and structure an article into pithy, compelling prose.

Yet, there’s something that is far too often overlooked in the quest for Pulitzer Prize perfection: If the headline fails to capture readers’ interest, the story will go unread.

The same is true of digital marketing copy. If your “headline” is not persuasive, your message will fail to help you forge closer relationships and attract the interest of potential clients. A “headline” can be that line of words above an article, or the introductory words that label a Web page. A “headline” can also be the subject line in an email message.

A headline acts as the bridge over the gap between the creation of a good story and the reading of it. It must offer the essence of a story, boiled down to fit into a limited space. The headline’s job has always been critical in print publications. It is arguably more critical in the message-crowded world of electronic customer communications.

So, how do we make each headline into something that demands, screams or sweetly whispers “Read me” ?

Try three strategies:

Take a sweeping view of the copy, picking out key words. Weave the key words together in a meaningful way.

Read the article, close your eyes and write. Craft a single sentence summarizing the article. Use the main points of the sentence as the foundation for the headline.

Identify the so-called "Five Ws and the H" of journalism. Write the headline by including the "who" and the "what" of the story in the first line; the "how" and “why” in the second line. Decide to include the “when” and “where” if it is critical to the story’s meaning. Increasingly, the "why" has become an important element to emphasize. As we become inundated with information, a headline that clearly indicates how the viewer may benefit by reading an article is often the most successful.

Here are a few more words to the wise:

Keep it short and sweet, baby.
Omit unnecessary words.
Avoid repeating words. Avoid repeating words. (Unless, that is, you are doing it for special effect.)
Use a style that’s appropriate for the story (Be funny for a funny story. Be serious for a serious story)
Make it simple.

Make the words sing.
Include a subject and a verb.
Pick action verbs.
Make it clever.
Be descriptive.
Appeal to the emotions.
Offer intrigue.

Perfecting the art of headline writing isn’t for everyone. If you aren't a masterful copywriter, tap a professional for the job. Your company’s words only take on value when you get your message in front of readers.

For fun, visit The Poynter Institute's amusing “Headline of the Day”


Click here to view this column at the BeTuitive site.