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, September 30, 2005

Great Ads #3 - Target

Target. Need we say more?

This ad is clever graphically in the way the tea kettle emanates from the woman's head. The colors are bold, striking. The sunglasses are stylish. The model is beautiful.

The whole theme of "Want vs. Need" is just purely superb, also. Plus, the company is bold enough to show actual retail prices for the items.

Target understands "hip, cool" better than almost any other U.S. company, in my opinion. Kudos to the marketing geniuses at Target for "getting it." And a special kudo to Robyn Waters, who got Target's marketing to where it is now!

Labels: ,

Tipping Point - Gasoline

We had a strange occurrence here last week. On Friday, September 23, the day that Hurricane Rita hit land in Texas, a rumor hit Charleston, WV. The story was that gas prices had hit $5.00 in the nearby suburb of Teays Valley. The price hike was spreading and was soon to reach Charleston. Everyone was told that they'd better run out and fill up before the prices rose by more than $2.00 per gallon to the unfathomable $5.00 point.

At 4:30 I made a beeline for my local Chevron station. The pumps were turned off, covered with bags. A sign on each pump showed, "Out of gas." The next station I visited still had gas, but had lines 4 and 5 cars deep at each island. Word was that they, too, were about to run out of gas.

Turns out that it was all a rumor, a hoax. There was no gas station in Teays Valley charging $5.00 per gallon. Moreover, the prices never eclipsed $3.00 per gallon last week or this week. (Which is not to say that prices aren't too darn high!)

As a marketing professional and an armchair sociologist, the whole episode made me wonder. Who started the rumor? How did it spread so widely? What path did it take?With Hurricane Rita hitting--and the memories of Katrina fresh in everyone's mind--we were all prepared for more crazy stuff to happen. The environment was ripe for a rumor to reach its tipping point. Still, it is fascinating that it happened ... that I believed it too ... that it all began with one person, really, who caused all of this.

Here's a report from the Charleston Gazette

Rumors fuel gas-price scare in W.Va.
Panicked by Hurricane Rita, drivers make run on filling stations
By Joe Morris
Business Editor

Hurricane Rita was a good 1,200 miles away and gas prices were holding steady, but that didn’t stop drivers across the state from stampeding filling stations Friday, pumping more than a dozen dry.

“People are going crazy for no reason,” said Jan Vineyard, executive director of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association. “Our suppliers have us allocated, and if everyone would do everything in their usual manner, we’ll all be OK.”

But things were far from their usual manner. Cars lined up by the dozens at pumps as the day wore on and unfounded rumors of $5 a gallon radiated.

Charleston Police Lt. Jim Sands said he had to break up an altercation between two drivers over who was first in line at the Go-Mart on West Washington Street. “Prices haven’t spiked,” Sands said. “I don’t know where this is coming from.”

At least two gas stations in the Charleston area, the 50th Street 7-Eleven and Speedway on Green Road at Southridge Centre, did run out of gas, as did “quite a few” others throughout West Virginia, Vineyard said. She did not know the exact number, but estimated that it was more than 10 or 12.

“We expect these to increase, unless people calm down,” she said. “You would think we would be a caring-enough nation to be conservative at a time like this.”

In fact, despite all the panic-buying, prices never spiked. The biggest increases over the course of the day were no more than a dime, and at least one station in Parkersburg lowered its price.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Great Ads #2 - Dyson

This ad from Dyson is the next in our continuing series of ads that we love. It appeared in the October issue of Vanity Fair.

Visually, the reader is hammered with a bold product presentation. The bright yellow of the Dyson sweeper contrasts strongly with the black background of the ad. The product almost seems to float on the page. This great design helps to convey the sense that this product is unmistakably something different ... something special. It looks technologically advanced and ... well, hip.

I love the fact that the owner of the company puts his name on the ad. This gives me a comfort feeling, a sense that the product will be supported with a strong guarantee or warranty.

The Dyson USP (unique selling proposition) is impossible to miss, repeated in the headline and the copy: "Our sweeper does not lose suction." The cleverness of the Dyson campaign, overall, is the way in which it creates a concern in my mind that did not exist previously. To me, that is a hallmark of a great ad. The copy is tight, sparse and effective. I especially love the phrase "incredibly high speeds."

For more on the Dyson campaign check here.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Losing Suction

James Dyson and the folks at the Dyson Company, makers of fine vacuum sweepers, have executed a fine marketing campaign. Thanks to them, we are now concerned that our vacuum sweepers are losing suction. They have created--and defined--a new concern. And they have capitalized upon that concern by offering a product that overcomes it.

The Dyson sweeper contains some 19 cyclones that generate ridiculously high air speeds ... something like 49,000 cubic feet per minute.

What the heck is a cyclone? I don't know, and I don't care. All I know is that the Dyson sweeper with its 49,000 cfm could probably suck up a hamster without missing a beat. It is power. The product is presented as powerful. And it never loses its suction power.

I also love the fact that James Dyson puts his name, or face & voice, on every ad. It is, in effect, a personal guarantee. Reminds me of the old Victor Kiam campaign for the Remington electric razor.

The Dyson campaign is a great one. Each ad consistently presents the unique selling proposition: the Dyson sweeper never loses its suction power--unlike other, "inferior" competing products. The overall campaign is consistent and well done. The product, itself, is unique in design, both in its aesthetics and engineering. Plus, the company has a fantastically visual and content-rich Web site that fits the overall campaign and company culture.

Kudos to the marketing geniuses at Dyson. Their marketing certainly does not suck; but their product certainly does!

(Stay tuned for more on this campaign.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


A colleague and I were out walking about lovely Downtown Charleston at mid-day recently, when suddenly we saw someone wearing a sports jersey with the number "31" on it. I turned to my colleague and asked, "When you see the number 31, what do you think of?"

Her quick reply was "Baskin Robbins."

Naturally, I was thinking the same.

This quick, random, unprompted episode was a great reminder of the power of good, consistent brand-centered marketing. In the world of consumer mindspace, Baskin Robbins owns the position related to the numeral, 31.

Thirty-one. Baskin Robbins. Period. End of story.

It has been a long, long time since Baskin Robbins offered only 31 flavors. Today, the retailer offers a far greater variety of flavors--and products. But thanks to the fact that Baskin Robbins advertised its offering of thirty-one flavors (which was way, way more than anyone else ever had) for decades in the 60s, 70s and 1980s, our brains are ingrained with the mental linkage between B-R and 31. Though the "31 flavors" phrase is no longer an exactly accurate descriptor of the brand, conversely the phrase does nothing to reduce brand equity for B-R, either.

That colleague and I, by the way, are separated in age by almost 20 years. Boomers, Gen-X and Millenials ... it matters not to which cohort we belong ... alike know that Baskin Robbins offers thirty-one flavors of creamy goodness.

Now, go get yourself a cone! Marketing geniuses like you deserve a tasty reward now and then.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Bring Integrity Back to Rebuild The Brand

By now you are acutely aware of the problems in Major League Baseball (MLB). I am concerned, but I am able to stay focused on the beauty of the game - though it is getting harder by the day. My level of concern grows as I see the ongoing deterioration of a brand that was at one time, in my opinion, as strong if not stronger than any other, and MLB's inability – and in some cases unwillingness - to recognize this erosion and put an end to it, rebuild the brand and protect it for old and new generations of fans and casual observers alike.

As we tell our clients at Maple Creative, a brand is a promise made to customers that you can consistently uphold. Through a series of recent unfortunate events, MLB has broken its promise with its fans. But even as we approach playoffs and the World Series, it's not too late to start over.

As the MLB works to rebuild their brand they must be sure to answer questions including but not limited to the following:
  1. what is the mission of MLB?
  2. what is the goal of this brand in 5, 10, 20 years?
  3. what is the vision of MLB?
  4. how will MLB build and restore brand equity?

Going forward,whatever MLB does, integrity is crucial. Without integrity, brand equity erodes, the brand erodes and so goes baseball.

Bring integrity back to MLB and you can rebuild the MLB brand.

A Horse is a Horse, Of Course, Of Course...

As a marketing and public relations professional I am interested in unique ways to communicate with existing customers - and reach new ones. Here's one for sure.

On a recent trip to the Horse Capitol of the World, Lexington, KY, a business colleague and I were discussing his ownership of thoroughbred race horse. He directed me to a site that offered more information about the world of race horse ownership.

Today I became an owner of a thoroughbred horse thanks to the folks at Woodford Reserve, makers of one of the world's premiere bourbons.

I'm not a bourbon or a horse aficionado but thanks to the informative and very interactive Woodford Reserve Web site, I'm on my way. Upon logging on to the site I was prompted to 'share in the excitement of thoroughbred ownership.' I followed the prompts and after only a few minutes I was part owner of Distill My Heart, a beautiful filly stabled in where else - Kentucky.

Once an owner, I can view the horse's conformation, her daily training log and track her progress in races at venues such as Churchhill Downs.

Now Woodford Reserve wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't teach me a thing or two about bourbon. So while on the site, I can learn about Woodford Reserve's history,view the bourbon's conformation, see the bottling process, take a virtual tour of the distillery and even shop for many things. Except bourbon.

And talk about follow up. Today I received my membership certificate, a photo of Distill My Heart and a beautiful, somewhat large Woodford Reserve Thoroughbred Society lapel pin to be worn to gain entry to Woodford Reserve Stables gatherings and events.

Next time a conversation about bourbon or horses comes up, I'll at least know what others are talking about. And what I'll be talking about - Woodford Reserve and my filly, Distill My Heart.

Kudos to the marketing geniuses at Woodford Reserve - lengths ahead in customer activation.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

In Times Like These

With the tragedy of the natural disaster that occurred this week in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on the minds of many, now is an opportune time to revisit a basic premise of marketing. This topic presents itself periodically--whenever we go to war, when disasters strike--and without question in the weeks and months that immediately followed September 11, 2001.

So here's the question: "Is it okay for us to insert a message of support/sympathy into our advertising campaign?"

Never, never, ever tie your marketing to natural disaster or war or terrorist events. You are not likely to ever get a more direct answer from me, than on this topic.

I know. It is very tempting to add a line to your ad, something like this: "Our hearts go out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina." Or "We support our troops." Such action might seem like the thing to do, not only because you want to say those things, but also because the message may resonate with your audience.

However, the far greater, deciding factor is that you run the risk of being perceived as opportunistic. Do not play on the public's heartstrings with sympathy messages or patriotism. Never pray upon their fears. They will see right through it, and you will greatly harm your brand equity.

Don't get me wrong, please. I am not suggesting that we should be heartless. It's just that there's a time, a forum and a way to communicate marketing messages ... and a whole separate manner for communicating statements of public support or sympathy or patriotism. Never mix the two. Certainly don't allow room for misinterpretation.

If you want to issue a message of compassion, do it with a press release or a letter. But if you still feel compelled to focus your advertisement on a message of patriotism or sympathy or compassion, craft the whole entire advertisement around such feelings. Just don't try to slip a product mention or the details of this week's special into the ad.