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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Day in the Life of a Beefeater

We've just created and released a three-minute video that's purely zaney fun. It is a publicity project for a client. And we thougt that you, our treasured readers, might like to see an example of our work.

Watch the video (Quick Time movie format ".mov"). It's a 6 MB file, so it takes a minute to load, depending upon your connection speed.

The client is a British online merchant, Unique British Gifts. They have some very unique, very cool (and yes - very British) merchandise. These items might just be the answer for that hard-to-buy-for family member who's got you stumped this season.

If things don't work properly viewing the movie, you may want to cut & paste the following URL into your browser address box:

And hey- we're eager to hear your feedback!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fun Holiday Cheer from Starbucks

Starbucks has created a special holiday promotional Web site. It's really fun and festive. And it's all about the season. You'll find holiday tips, playful lists, suggestions and interactive screen games. Get recipes and stories to help you get more into the spirit of Christmas. Moreover, I love the style of the artwork, with the line drawings which gives an arts-and-crafts feel to it all. The site is built as a hybrid with Flash and HTML elements and loads in an instant.

The Red Cup site keeps visitors coming back by adding new content each and every day. It's sort of like an online advent calendar. Each day more is revealed and the meaning deepens.

What's more impressive? Coordination. Starbucks timed the launch of this site to coincide on the day that it changed its paper coffee cups in each and every one of its 8,569 worldwide retail locations--from its regular, handsome white and green cups to a seasonal rich, red cup.

I love this ... the whole notion that the Red Cup site is just for fun. Not selling any Starbucks product on this site, nor any merchandise. That's cool. The Red Cup site is an extension of the Starbucks brand and its culture. What Starbucks IS selling, in a very subtle way, is the reinforcement of the deep bond that exists between the brand and its most loyal supports. And I'll admit that I am one of them.

A tip of old Santa's cap, a wink, and a tap on the nose to Howard Schultz and the team of marketing geniuses at Starbucks.

Economic Forecasts Send Conflicting Signals

Fellow marketer and blogger, Mike Bawden of Brand Central Station, read our recent post about the McKinsey survey which noted sagging economic confidence amongst global executives. In response, he noted a separate report by Constant Contact which called for a robust Christmas season for the retail sector, based on its own survey results. One says up. The other says down. So, understandably, Mike called the question: what gives? Which report should we believe?

The devil is in the details, as is so often the case. Economic reports often give the appearance of conflicting data and juxtaposed trends; it just sorta comes with the turf of economics. The world is very complex.

I wanted to share a few clarifications and insights, which I've communicated to Mike Bawden via email. Hope this helps to alleviate some confusion:

1- The McKinsey survey is global, while the Constant Contact survey is U.S. only. In the McKinsey survey, the U.S. executives were more confident and optimistic than their global peers.

2- The Constant Contact survey is an estimator of the upcoming retail holiday season; it does nothing to measure confidence beyond December 2005 ... nothing to look into 2006. Short term sales outlook, versus longer-term confidence measurement.

3- Examining the Constant Contact survey ... beyond the first question about the retail holiday sales season, roughly two thirds of the participants expressed concern about the effects of rising energy prices on their business. To me, that does connote a wavering confidence. The majority (55%) also reported "no end of year bonus" this year for employees, which is not a sign of confidence.

4 - And finally -- raw, human optimism. It is entirely possible, though illogical, that we, humans (especially business owners)think, feel & believe our own company will do well (i.e., succeed) while the rest of the world's economy is in decline. That's the determination upon which success in small business is built!

Mike, thanks for the calling out this question. An inquisitive mind is a mark of a marketing genius! And be sure to check out Mike's blog, Much Ado About Marketing. It's chocked full of great information.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Targeting Your Audience

This company clearly knows its target audience. In fact, the owners have named their company accordingly---seemingly without apologies to the rest of the world.

Hoodlum Motorcycle Garage
Located in Beckely, West Virginia

Not for the rule following, law abiding customers ...
Not for the wimps ...
Not for mealy-mouthed, middle of the road folks ...

Nope. Instead, they have aligned their business with the hoodlum segment of the motorcycle market. I am lampooning, of course, but this is perfectly in line with the whole Harley Davidson culture, experience and brand. Hop on a cycle, don some riding leathers and look like a tough guy.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Mr. Potter You Are A Buzzin'


Harry Potter.

Two words. Four movies. Six Books. An unbelievable amount of detail.

Cultural shift.

People with kids, without kids, in their 20's, 30's and 40's are reading and watching this fellow.

People lining up for books!

Going to see a midnight showing of the movie.

It's glorious I tell you, glorious.

In my opinion, regardless if you like the story or not, you have to admit that it is has shifted the cultural effect of literature.

This work is changing our expectations regarding printed literature and the quality of other entertainment created around the printed word.

Ms. Rowling, I thank you.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Fed Up

We've all been there. Crunch time on a project. Every second counts. It's down to the wire. You have to overnight it to make deadline. You've made the drop off at Kinko's. You can exhale.

WRONG! Your package got lost. The "World on Time" folks at FedEX lost your package. The near error free system failed you at your most vulnerable time. What can you do? You still look bad even though technically it's not your fault. You basically have zero recourse against the courier;if your lucky you'll get your money back assuming the package eventually shows up and reaches its destination three days too late.

I've seen this happen at least ten times in recent years. This week, on two consecutive days, two packages got lost that were sent from the same drop box to the same location. One package never entered the system at all. Most likely the pickup guy dropped it on the street while walking to his truck. The other got missorted in Memphis and ended up in PA instead of VA. This has got to be a first for them. What are the odds of this happening twice? Slim I'm sure. But it did. At a critical time for a critical project. I'm still playing damage control to get the project done on time.

There are also scores of examples of West Virginia zip codes that the overnights can't locate in one day.

My point. Rely on these folks as little as possible. It is a matter of time before you get burnt.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sales are up 45%

I couldn't believe my ears.

The gentleman sitting across the table from me said two things during our meeting that just brought a smile to my inner-marketing-geek.

"Fifteen people showed up for our workshop this weekend, we were delighted. And, the customers stayed in the store and actually shopped afterwards." I'll interpret this for you. Our client held a workshop in their store, fifteen customers showed up and stayed in their store for more than an hour!

In response to my weekly question about sales and traffic, he responded that sales were up "45% compared to last year."

Have we changed this client's marketing strategy - yep. Can we attribute this change for the increase in participation and sales - some, but not completely.

Why? Because our client is pretty darn smart. Here's the laundry list of things we have done that have brought us to this place:

- researched his customer and determined why they buy from him
- changed the look, format and tone of his advertising to appeal to the target that is most likely to buy from him
- placed his media on channels and in formats that his target market is most likely to read and watch
- created events for his target market to activate their experience with his store and his staff
- enhanced the point of purchase materials in his entire store to make more information available to potential customers
- implemented an aggressive training program to increase the knowledge and sales skills of his sales people

The end result is that our client is spending less money on advertising and generating more sales by targeting his customer, communicating value to them and enhancing his operational sales efforts to create more opportunities for sales to occur.

PS - in case you are wondering, sales were not that bad last year, we've been able to raise the baseline.

RHS - New Pandemic Coming to America

No, it's not the bird flu. It is Retired Husband Syndrome. Have you heard of it?

I had not, until I read about it via Marti Barletta. Marti spotted this coming trend and explained it on her blog, Trendsightings. I had the pleasure to meet Marti Barletta last December at a Tom Peters gathering. She is smart, cool and visionary ... she gets what's going on in the world around us.

Retired Husband Syndrome is a product of the life-stage of the Baby Boomers. With the Boomers, America has tons of husbands, many of whom are retired or retiring. What does this mean for Baby Boom couples, especially women Boomers? It means lifestyle adjustment for Boomer couples, but there may be a silver lining in a new wave of volunteerism. Find out more on Marti's blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Drop in Confidence for U.S. Executives

According to a McKinsey survey, American business executives are much less confident about the national economy than they were six months ago. To boot, their confidence is the lowest that it has been during the past 18 months.

Knowing this, how might you shape or rethink your marketing plan? How might this affect your business development efforts? Your customers may be thinking that they will have to tighten the purse strings.

First of all, understand that this survey is only one data point--alone, it is not compelling. Also take into consideration that this survey was adminstered on the heels of a major disaster, Hurricane Katrina. Those considerations in mind, however, do not be surprised to encounter the following in the near future:

1- Expect longer sales cycles (i.e., takes you longer to close deals)
2- Be ready for flat or reduced budgets for contracts, services and consulting fees
3- Look for existing clients electing to rebid contracts (which spells opportunity if you're not getting the buiness, tough news if you are)
4- Be ready for previously planned projects to become postponed or tabled
5- Increased focus on productivity and ROI should be well received.
6- Marketing messages focused on the "saving you money ~ making you wealthy" benefits should play well with clients.
7- Decision makers may have an initial inclination to slash advertising and marketing expenditures, so it might take more justification and extra measures of service and support to preserve such items (again, think about ROI and sales productivity).

According to the McKinsey Quarterly newsletter article:
US-based executives have generally been among the more optimistic in our surveys. When asked in March of 2005 how they felt about the [U.S.] economy 6 months hence, a majority (an index of 59) were very confident. For this survey, when asked about current conditions versus those six months ago, this same group registered a confidence level of 44, the lowest since we began measuring it 18 months ago and the lowest of any group of executives in the world. US executives, however, are much more upbeat about their own industries; their confidence fell, but remains only somewhat lower than it was six months ago.

Source: McKinsey & Co., Survey of Global Business Executives, Sept. 2005.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dominos Is Sneaky

This weekend I received a postcard from Domino's Pizza in my mailbox. It said, "Sorry We Were Late."

Thinking for a few seconds, I could not recall an order in which Domino's was late on delivery. Hmmm.

Thinking about this some more, Domino's does not even promise a explicit delivery time anymore. They tell me that my order will be delivered in "about 35 minutes."

Investigating further, I took a look at the address. It is addressed to "Domino's Pizza Lover." It was probably sent to my whole zip code area.

This is sneaky. This is clever. So what if they weren't late on my order? Does it offend me that they sent the postcard? Nah - not really. If I redeem the postcard, there is a very good chance that Domino's gets an "upsell" order ... breadsticks, a beverage or something that I would not have otherwise ordered.

What do you think about Domino's sending a direct-mail apology postcard en masse to many people who do not literally deserve an apology?

It Will Be Okay

Maybe it's a trend ...

Maybe it's a particular set of circumstances occurring in my little corner of the world ...

But everyone I know seems to be stressed out, way too busy, grumpy, worried or just a little bit down in attitude lately.

Now, what does this have to do with marketing? Maybe not much. But maybe everything. I know it's tough to be the enthusiastic, optimistic promoter when the gloomy clouds are overhead.

Hey - we all get this way sometimes. I know that I get depressed, too. And sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed.

So here's my message to all of you: "It's alright. Things will be okay. A brighter day is just around the corner!"

Thursday, November 10, 2005

"E-mail is inefficient"


Are you kidding me? I can get approval for ad copy from my client who has a Blackberry in about 45 seconds.

Inefficient? This is efficiency at it's optimum.

But then I thought about what this gentleman had just said to me. "E-mail is the most inefficient tool for communicating in business and teams."

Oh. In a blink of an eye, I knew he was right.

Cary Landis owns Virtual Global a collaborative software design company here in West Virginia. That's right, right here in West Virginia - if you let your guard down a little, you too could see the leading ideas coming out of here ( more on that another day).

If he plays his cards right, he is going to get caught in the boom that we will look back on as the Collaborative Revolution. In the business world, when you need four people to comment on the same document, artwork or idea - the direct one-on-one communication reality of e-mail fails the team.

Changes, ideas and suggestions bypass each other in cyberspace and basically create an unnecessary chaos in the collaborative process.

Well, I look forward to seeing if Cary is right and wonder how I'll be working with my team twelve months from now.

How early can you be?


Santa is arriving this weekend at our local mall.

Honestly, I'm excited, but things have changed so much since I was standing in line waiting to sit on the big guy's lap and tell him what I wanted for Christmas.

He keeps showing up earlier and earlier.

Now, I'm not complaining, we have a tradition in my house, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we decorate for Christmas. We love the holidays. Our family spends dinner after dinner after dinner together. We change to our holiday plates, decorate our house and dress the dog up like a reindeer (ok, we don't do that).

But from a retail standpoint, I'm wondering where the law of diminishing returns kicks in?

Where does the fact that you are so in front of the holiday that consumers become numb to your sales message. When do you get so far ahead of the key purchasing time for the holiday season, that your return on your advertising purchase diminishes?

Preempting demand with your sales message is key.

You want potential customers in a place that they are beginning to consider their options for fulfilling the need that they have and that you can fulfill for them.

Whether you are in retail or a professional service firm, make sure that you are available when your customers need you to be informing them of their options.

Look back at three to four years of your sales - when did your customers really buy?

When did you start selling to them?

Do the cycles match?

Did you preempt the demand?

Where you ahead or behind the sales curve?

Where can you adjust your marketing efforts to match the timing of the cycle?

Understanding your sales cycle is key.

Ask the questions and adjust your tactics to increase your sales next year.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Quiz Your Audience

Adding a quiz to your Web site may be a great way to freshen up things a bit. Humans are curious creatures by nature ... aren't we?

Instead of making a point, or stating your case, through a typical, logical presentation of the facts, why not do so with a quiz? Through the experience of a quiz, your audience (i.e., your site visitors) can convince themselves of the need for your product or service ... instead of being convinced by you.

Have any of you seen a good quiz on a Web site recently? Better yet, does anyone currently utilize a quiz on their site? If so, I would love to hear about it.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Change This

Manifestos! Manifestos!

When I need a jolt in the cranium, I go to and digest a few of the manifestos posted there.

See for yourself.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

British Invasion Brings Unique Gifts to United States

It all started when two British entrepreneurs armed with an impressive range of hand-made products, embarked upon a mission to save craftsmen and women of the UK from extinction. Together, they set a course for a new market--the United States--targeting American collectors who appreciate the finer things in life - just in time for the holiday season!

With only 42 shopping days until Christmas, American consumers want…err ... need to know where they can find the highest level of craftsmanship, artisanship and products that have character, style and a uniqueness not found in typical U.S. retail outlets.

“Our product line offers the highest quality, one-of-a-kind, perfect gift for the person that has everything,” said Peter Witts, founder of Unique British Gifts. “These are special gifts, with the heart and soul of the artisan woven into each piece,” he added. has compiled a diverse inventory that includes handmade barometers and clocks, pewter and lead crystal table décor, ceramic birdhouses, paintings and historic pen sets, including the limited edition 1805 pen commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. The pen has been crafted using the genuine oak timbers and copper from Admiral Nelson's flagship HMS Victory.

“We are excited about the opportunities we see as we reach out to the United States,” said Witts. “We need the media’s help,” he concluded.

To schedule an interview or television appearance with Peter Witts or for product information please contact James Nester, US Communications Director at
304-342-6970, or via e-mail at

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Paper Towels

"Sir, have you tried the new Bounty Basic paper towels? They are really just as good as these towels, they work just as well and they are only fifty cents instead of $1."

I asked myself if this just happened. You see, we use paper towels in my house. I'm a little embarrassed to say - many paper towels. Three kids, two dogs and a cat or two (I won't tell you the real number) create many opportunities for us to utilize the power of "the quicker picker upper." Often.

But this was odd to me as a marketer. The clerk was prodding me into purchasing a cheaper product. They reminded me that the towels were made by Bounty (brand loyalty) and I couldn't help but feel like we were all going to pull a fast one on Bounty.

"Go ahead," she said," run back and get you some, I'll wait to scan the rest of your items."

Suddenly, I was pulled to the back of the store, grabbing the Basic towels and striding to the front of the store with my stash.

Oh the joy of a bargain, reinforced by a strong brand like Bounty.

Wait a minute, did Bounty just open up their brand to another demographic group - price sensitive paper towel shoppers?

You and I know there aren't as many sheets on the roll.

The paper is also thinner.

Honestly, I don't mind, I'm wiping mud off my dogs feet, I don't need a tarp that I can balance a jar of spaghetti sauce on.

Bounty, your brand is strong. Basic may help you attract users that normally wouldn't buy you.
For what it is worth, people are talking about your product and influencing the buying behavior of your customers.