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.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, Grateful Christmas

On Christmas day and on behalf of our entire band of bloggers, I just wanted to tell you--all who read this blog--thanks!

This blog, Marketing Genius, has grown to an unbelievable level with 80+ subscribers and more than 250 visitors per day. Most importantly, we have made many new friends through the blogosphere. And we have learned so much from all of you!

It's a far cry more than what seemed possible two years ago!

Merry Christmas and God bless!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

New Year's Resolutions for Your Brand

Well it's that time of year again. Time to reflect on another year gone by. Time to make your New Year's resolution. Many will be the same as those made last year - lose weight, make more money, become better at time management, make amends with someone... the list goes on.

But what resolutions will you make for your Brand?

Have you even thought of your brand in 2006? If not, now is the perfect time. Considering the importance of your brand, isn't it important to safeguard it however possible - right now?

Aren't we as marketing professionals to hold the view that its integrity always be maintained and continually strengthened? If so, then consider the following:

Next year will you protect the brand and image of your company or product?

Will all of your branded communications including those on Web sites follow developed and approved graphic standards?

Will your brand be reinforced by a consistency across all communications in order to foster a sense of familiarity and confidence to its diverse audiences?

Will you strengthen your brand equity?

Do you need to repair any damage done in 2005 to your brand?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, then your work begins right now - if it hasn't already!

Happy Holidays to you and yours - including your brand - from the Marketing Geniuses at Maple Creative!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Unusually Blah Season

I overheard this conversation on the street downtown today.

Man #1: "It just doesn't feel like Christmas this year, to me, at all."

Man #2: "Yeah, I know. We're not even going to put up a tree this year. And I haven't bought a single gift yet."

This encounter prompted me to write this post--one that I've been contemplating for weeks. And while I don't necessarily agree with the sentiment those two men were expressing, something does feel weird to me. It is not a case of what I'm seeing; it's what I am NOT seeing.

I am not seeing many Christmas parties this year. You know, the traditional business open-house style holiday bash. In years past, there would be at least 3 or 4. This year only one company that I know had a Christmas party. From what I gather, most companies are doing something low-key for staff only. It appears that people are cutting back, saving money ... only spending on employee appreciation. The in-house luncheon or dinner seems to be the trend this year.

My wife owns a catering company. From her perspective, business is way off this year. Typically the whole month of December is insanely busy with parties and holiday bashes. This year, all of the activity was concentrated into one weekend, which fell last weekend - December 16th to 18th, by the way.

Though I don't have an official count ... or any statistical basis for this observation ... it seems to me that the volume of Christmas cards is down, too. This appears to be the case at home and at the office.

Is it just me ... or is the 2005 holiday season a mostly Scrooge-ish affair? It is entirely possible that I/we have overlooked, ignored and offended many. So it could just be me, or us.

Come on, marketing geniuses, help me out here. Let me hear from you, please!

Six Most Important Words in Marketing

"How did you hear about us?"

These are the six most important words in any marketing program.

It is essential to ask this question: "How did you hear about us?" Ask it each and every time that a new prospect, customer or constituent comes to you. It doesn't matter whether the inquiry comes as a personal (face to face) request, a phone call, a Web site hit, fax, e-mail message or other. You have to ask this question AND create a process for tracking the responses to the question. It's the only way, really, to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing program.

[Reposted from July 2005 - one of the most popular posts on this blog]

Monday, December 19, 2005

Great Ads #5 - United

What makes this ad great is, quite obviously, a great illustration. It tells all or most of the story on its own.

This ad for United Airlines, which ran on a full page in a November 2005 issue of Sports Illustrated, stopped me in my tracks with its unique illustration. The style of the art and the color palette are unusual, and the image is humorous. Anyone who has ever flown coach class has felt like the cartoon man in the ad. "Don't let other airlines leave you in a pinch," says the headline.

The unique selling proposition (or USP) featured in this ad is legroom ... and more of it. "With up to 5 inches of extra legroom, it's not surprising that Economy Plus has been voted the best ...."

So, what is the benefit of more legroom?

Comfort. United is selling comfort. Their seating arrangement will make you feel better while you are flying.

My hat is off to the marketing geniuses at United--or their ad agency--for some gorgeous art illustration and a great ad.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

And Now A Word From The "Beefeater"

I thought I'd give you and your readers a quick update on the 'Beefeater' video. As you are aware, Maple Creative developed (and I starred as the Beefeater) the Beefeater in order to drive traffic to the Unique British Gifts site ( The spot which if you haven’t seen it is at was filmed in one day only two days before Thanksgiving. It was edited over Thanksgiving weekend and released on November 30th. Since that time, the worldwide response has been remarkable.

- Visitor numbers continue to rise
- 92% of hits are entry via URL direct
-Average pages/visitor: 5.5
- 52% of home page entries click on past home page
- 16.4% of visitors put UBG in Favorites
- 74% of visitors are from the U.S.And most important to our client, U.S. sales have begun and continue.

But why? Could it be simply the result of the video? Certainly not!

To quote my colleague Skip “A marketing plan should never be built around a single tactic or a single medium. This goes back to one of our fundamental laws of marketing: if your marketing plan has only one component, it is sure to fail.”

Layer, Layer, Layer!

The campaign did not rely solely on the ‘Beefeater’ video. Another layer of the campaign was traditional media outreach. Before the release of the spot, we received coverage from local and regional media. After the release of the video we continued in our media outreach and forwarded the link to the spot to the media who hadn’t yet seen it – in a few cases we were contacted by the media directly after they viewed the spot. The video, targeted releases and good old media pitch garnered additional coverage in major markets including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.

Additionally, the 'Beefeater' made stops in major markets greeting morning and afternoon commuters with a call to action - go to this site this holiday, appeared on talk radio in metropolitan markets. The day after greeting commuters in Pittsburgh (it was 15 degrees out) visits to the site were 30 percent above the previous all-time high the week before.

We are now gearing up to cross the bridge from mass marketing to direct marketing as we look to reach the bridal market.

What lies ahead for the ‘Beefeater’ and Unique British Gifts? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Okay, it's the holiday season. But this is not about strudel, nor is it about any other notions of a layered dessert. It is about a layered approach to your marketing.

So, what does layering mean, in the context of marketing? A good, solid, effective marketing strategy involves layers of tactics. A marketing plan should never be built around a single tactic or a single medium. This goes back to one of our fundamental laws of marketing: if your marketing plan has only one component, it is sure to fail.

All too often, those who are trying to grow their business (i.e., engage in marketing), rely on a one-shot approach. This is a poor approach from many aspects. It is poor risk management, or contingency planning. And as we all know, we should never "place all of our eggs in one basket."

The single-prong approach also assumes that the marketer is able to identify the one channel, or medium, that will enable them to connect with the prospective customer. Again, this is foolhardy. In today's world, be it the commercial or retail arena, customers view or consume multiple media. Simply stated, your customer hops around between and across various media. With a single-prong approach, you might just miss your prospect entirely.

Never run a marketing program or campaign based solely on one tactic. Don't rely solely on direct mail. Instead, layer into your strategy some advertising or media relations tactics. Do not rely solely on advertising; instead, layer into your strategy some special-event marketing, for example. And never, but never, launch a campaign that involves only one flight or volley of contact. Instead, work some repetition into the strategy. Don't simply send one postcard or letter; design a three or five-part series. The wise marketing genius understands and leverages the power of repetition.

The layered approach is the wise approach when it comes to reaching your customer most effectively ... with your message, your news or your special offer. Layering is the strategic approach to marketing that will enable you to achieve your desired results and grow your business.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Baked Goods at Starbucks

I am a huge fan of Starbucks. Love their coffee. Love, love, love it! At my house, we buy Starbucks beans in the 1/2 pound bags at the grocery store (our Kroger). We grind beans every morning for a fresh pot of Starbucks. From Gold Coast Blend to Sumatra and Selena Organic, the list of favorites continues to grow.

Did you know that Starbucks will not serve a shot of espresso that has been around for longer than one minute? It's true. If a serving of espresso has been brewed but has sat unused for longer than one minute, Starbucks tosses it out. Gonzo. That's their policy. That's their insane level of commitment to quality and freshness.

Starbucks is obsessive about the quality of its coffee from the appearance and freshness of its beans to the coffee that it serves in its retail locations. Their commitment to quality is part of what makes the coffee so consistently excellent ... and as a marketing professional, part of what endears me to the brand.

When it comes to the food that Starbucks serves with its beverages, however, I am not so impressed. Sad to say ... but true. Oh sure, the baked goods look tempting perched there in the fancy, glass and chrome display case. Cookies, scones and slices of pound cake. All are wonderful selections to complement a nice steaming cup of Starbucks coffee. Or at least they should be.

I am consistently disappointed with the baked goods Starbucks serves. The cookies aren't quite crisp ... too spongy. Same thing with the scones. Nothing is worse than a scone that is too moist and too gooey. A scone should be dry and crumbly and should leave no oily residue on the fingers. A fresh cookie should give a crisp crunch upon biting into it. The Starbucks pastry case items are never up to the "A" level of quality, not on par with the coffee.

If Starbucks can be so obsessively excellent with the quality of its coffee, why can't they get the baked goods right?

Is anybody with me? Have you noticed this, too? C'mon dear readers, please back me up, here.

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Because things have been a little crazy-busy around these parts ... and in the spirit of the Christmas season ... here's a repeat of a post worth repeating from last year.
Still not convinced that repetition matters in communication?

Okay fine. Here's proof that it does.

You know that song, The Twelve Days of Christmas? My neighbor-friend called me Friday night to help her family solve a mystery. They could not recall the last several verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

So c'mon smartypants ... what was the gift on the eleventh day of Christmas? Don't know do you?

What about the gift on the twelfth day of Christmas? It's a blank, isn't it.

Hey, at least you are in good company.

Think about the song for a minute. Take it apart.

The lyric about the partridge in a pear tree is repeated 12 times. It's drilled into our brains.

Two turtle doves (repeats 11 times)
Three French hens (repeats 10 times)
Four calling birds (repeats 9 times)

FIVE ......... GOLD ........ RINGS (is repeated in dramatic fashion 8 times)

I can even remember (without cheating)-- six geese a laying; seven swans a swimming. At least I think these are correct, with respect to the actual song lyrics.

Beyond that seventh verse, things get very hazy, very fast in my memory.

The reason? Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

Every time I hear or sing (sure, go ahead and cringe now ... plug your ears) The Twelve Days of Christmas several of those verses become etched into my memory banks by way of repetition. The rest of them never make it into my memory because those verses are never repeated with enough frequency.

Does your important sales or marketing message make it into your target audience's memory bank? Do you use the power of repetition to your advantage?

I encourage you to utilize repetition to get your message (your point, your brand, your benefit) remembered. Do so, and you may just be on the receiving end of those gold rings. However, if you choose to ignore the importance of repetition, you may wind up like so many of those not-so-memorable pipers or drummers.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Pandemic: Last-Year-Itis

It's budget season. (Think Daffy Duck)

Unfortunately, there is a pandemic flying around the halls of many businesses that I communicate with: Last-Year-Itis.

"I want to keep our advertising and marketing budget at 4% of sales."

"How can you present to me a budget that is 25% above what we did this year, that is unacceptable!"

"We increase our marketing budget 4% each year, that's what you have to work with."

These quotes are tough to swallow.

They make sense from a pure accounting standpoint - projected sales are X based on this year's performance, marketing is X% of sales, therefore, your marketing budget is $YYY,YYY. Now, go away and create an environment for sales to flourish!

There is a quote (I heard it was from Ben Franklin) that doing the same thing over and over and over and over and expecting a different result is one definition of insanity. Well, y'all - I think were insane.

I'd rather start with questions like:

"What do you want your sales to be next year?"
"What is our close ratio?"
"Oh, ok, then we need to attract X number of prospects to get to the sales number we want."
"To do that we need to reach Y number of potential prospects and have a close ratio of Z."
"To reach those prospects, we need this many dollars to get an effective frequency."

I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes you need to forget the past to try to reinvent the future.

The numbers don't always make accounting sense. But if we do our homework, figure out what the value of buying added reach in our prospects' mind is, and create resonating selling propositions to present to them - there might be a cure for Last-Year-Itis out there.

Do you want to be 3% better than last year or 30%.

If you said 30% - then you need to create marketing that is 30% more effective at reaching your prospective customers and driving desired behavior. OR, you may have to spend 30% more on the tactics that are currently working for you to drive the sales number up!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Too Many Signs

Too many signs sends a sign to your customers. Allow me to explain.

I have a favorite convenience store along Interstate 79, where I stop almost every time I'm in the vicinity. For more than 15 years, this store has been my "pit stop" on the long, arduous driving trip between Charleston and Morgantown. The store's cleanliness and its friendly staff and owners are the reasons why it has long been a favorite of mine. Once, upon arrival, I discovered that I had left my wallet behind, so I had no way to pay for the gas I had just pumped. They allowed me to pay on my next trip, without any pressure or hassles. Suffice it by saying that I have had a longstanding, deep and rewarding relationship as a customer of this store.

Over the years, the owners or managers began posting signs. The first sign that I can recall appeared in the store's ultra-clean restrooms.
"Your purchases are the reason that we are able to offer clean restrooms."
Fine, I thought. Remind folks to buy something while they're here. Don't just come in to use the toilets. No big deal.

In the last couple of years, the store has become a jungle of signs.
"Do not overfill your cup under the capuccino machine."
"Don't leave your coffee wrappers and trash on the countertop. Trash receptacle is to your right."
"Pay for your gas before shopping."
"Do not park your car in a way that blocks the gas pumps."
"Smile--You are on closed-circuit video surveillance."
"Do not take any food or drink into the crafts shop."
"Do not park in the yellow striped areas outside the store."
"Do not leave your car running while you are shopping."
"No merchandise beyond this point."
On my last visit there about a week ago, I felt insulted by all of these signs. Yuck. Jeesh! Give me a break, please. You don't trust me. You think I am a slob. You think that I am ungrateful.

Guess what signs are not posted ... The two most important signs of all--
"Welcome. We are so glad you are here."
"Thank you. We appreciate your business."
Guess what else will be missing from this store from now on?