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, March 29, 2006

Brand Equity

Did you know that your brand has value? I'm talking about real, bankable value.

Brand equity is the value that the marketplace attributes to your brand, in both tangible and intangible terms. It is important to know that brand equity is a dynamic parameter, not a static one. Brand equity is a changing, evolving thing.

Over the course of its life, through every customer and marketplace interaction, your brand either builds or detracts from its equity. A story about a company who does a good deed today, like a charitable sponsorship announcement or a major hiring notice, increases that brand's equity. Of course, then, a subsequent product recall ... or a management scandal for that same company could more than wipe out the increase in brand equity from the prior good deed.

From an accounting perspective, Brand Equity is equivalent to the goodwill on the balance sheet. It is equivalent to the difference between shareholder's equity and paid-in capital. This is the tangible value.

From a marketing research perspective, Brand Equity is the difference between the measured audience affinity today and the brand's prior measurement of audience affinity. Affinity can be assessed in terms of satisfaction, value and perceived quality, as well as overall regard. These are the intangible, qualitative values.

There are many ways to increase brand equity. The two most important ones are as follows:

1- Take care of the customer with good service and consistently high quality of product, service or experience; this is not just good marketing ... it's good business. Nothing builds brand equity like a strong and growing base of satisfied customers.

2- Be mindful of consistency. If the audience (or marketplace) cannot identify the brand, it cannot properly attribute goodwill or affinity to the proper source. For example, do not depart entirely from a brand name and design scheme when evolving the brand. Keep some elements of the former design, for consistency, and to help the audience identify the brand. Keep things consistent and avoid frequent, drastic changes, working instead for a gradual, strategic evolution of the brand.

Marketing geniuses everywhere are keeping an eye on their brand equity. They know it is something to be treasured.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spam on the Fax

Can someone please explain the logic behind sending out spam offers via fax?

At our office we get at least two or three spam faxes each day. They tend to be related to tips on "hot stocks" and package deals on "luxurious vacations." If I am copying or sending a fax, I may glance at the spam that has come in to our fax machine. Invariably, I shake my head and toss it into the nearest trash can.

The offers are, obviously, unsolicited and intrusive. The spam fax is completely untargeted. It comes into our office fax machine addressed to no one. How could the originator of the office know anything about the demographic profiles of the people who work here at our office? Honestly the senders don't know who they are reaching. I cannot imagine how low the response rates must be.

So, marketing geniuses ... I ask you: is there anything less credible than spam fax? Would you ever consider responding to a spam fax promotional offer?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Free Is Bad. Bargain Is Good.

This came up in dialogue with a client today. It's one of those lessons that I have learned and re-learned. The principle is true ... pure human nature. Yet it's one of those principles that is all too easy to forget.

Free is bad.

When you offer something for free, people will attribute little or no value to it. Need an example? How many of you have been invited to a free seminar? It caught your interest, and you had every good intention of attending. At the last minute something trivial came up--and you bailed out of the free seminar.

I will admit that I do this all the time. I was going to participate in a free webinar discussing the wonderful new Dove skincare marketing campaign. On the day of the event, I got busy and opted to spend my time cranking out a client project. I bailed, and the cost was zero.

When something is free, it is literally without value. It is easy to find something more important to do. The free thing, whatever it is, will be nixed in favor of something more valuable, even if it is something unpleasant. (Think of avoiding pain or avoiding cost. Both are more valuable than a free item or service. Think of getting the oil changed or taking the cat to the vet.)

From another perspective, how many of you have ever planned, organized and conducted a free seminar ... only to have one or two people attend, or perhaps no one? Sadly, I have been on the receiving end of that scenario a time or two. Many years ago when I was working at GE, we had a doozie of a free seminar, planned down to the tee. People were receptive. The handout materials looked great and our presentation was sure to dazzle all. We even had a promising number of confirmed participants. But on the day of the event, my GE cohorts and I were staring at an empty hotel suite and three steaming platters of Swedish meatballs. Nobody showed. Nada.

People don't get all that jazzed about free, but they love a good bargain. Our world is filled with far too many free offers. That's why marketing geniuses know to charge something (anything, really) for their seminar, even if it's $19.95. Once people have committed and invested with money, they will invest with their time and attention, too. Instead of a free, charge a price for your seminar or trial product or service that will be deemed a bargain. Then, watch your prospects go from ambivalent to invested!

Friday, March 17, 2006

America's Addiction to American Idol

I confess...I am addicted to American Idol. This is the first year I have ever watched it. I started out just watching the auditions, because...let's face it...some of these people are just terrible singers and it's quite amusing. But somehow the show has sucked me in, and I haven't missed an episode (thanks to good ole TIVO). I am in front of the TV crossing my fingers for my favorites and becoming my own version of Simon Cowell, saying things to my husband like "She just booked her plane ticket home with that performance" and "He was a little pitchy tonight." It's not just me either, at lunch a majority of my coworkers discuss who they think will be voted off and who will be in the top 3 spaces. It doesn't matter if you are young, old, man or woman, so many people are infatuated with this show!

What does this have to do with marketing? Everything! From a marketing standpoint, I'm trying to figure out what makes this show so appealing to all demographics. There are a ton of reality tv shows, but what has made this show so attractive that it had higher viewership than the Olympics? I've come up with a few reasons why I think American Idol is so popular:

1) The Howard Stern Factor - Many people don't like Simon Cowell, but I don't think the show would do as well without him. He's like Howard Stern, a majority of people don't like him, but they are curious as to what he will say next.

2)Empathy - Throughout the show, we hear stories of the finalists personal lives. By seeing their struggles and achievements, we form connections with certain finalists and want to see how they will progress throughout the show.

3)Viewer Influence - The votes that people make actually affect the results of the show. It is not the judges or the finalists that make the decisions about who will leave. Viewers actually have influence and they want to see if who they picked will stay.

These are just some of my initial thoughts. Anybody else have any ideas why American Idol is such a TV sensation?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Let Your Customers Speak for Themselves!

To add to Jim’s blog on survey- skewing, my husband and I bought a car recently. The salesman was nice enough, i.e. courteous… not too pushy… gave me some free pens. All in all, I would describe my experience as “pleasant.”

Then, something absurd happened. As I was handed the keys, I was also given the dealer’s questionnaire that was already filled out for me. Evidently, the salesman had taken the liberty of completing the survey himself (with a perfect score of course) and, unless I had any complaints, he would also take the liberty of turning it in for me.

Gee, thanks.

I’m sure most people say “OK” and leave in their shiny new car, never giving the dealer or his silly questionnaire another thought. But I’m in marketing. And I conduct surveys for clients all the time and know how valuable they can be when used properly.

For example, I’m sure the muckety-mucks at HQ would love to know why I chose to buy my car from their company as opposed to everywhere else I looked. Even more important, why am I not coming back? (Hint: It’s not entirely about the survey.) In today’s market where American carmakers are struggling to survive, this information is critical to their success. However, this company will never know, because they didn’t give me the opportunity to tell them myself.

Irresponsible Research

A few items I received in the mail this week, surveys from both major political parties, prompted this blog. I’d like to continue the discussion of research for a few moments using these items as the example.

Both surveys were short (about 15-20 questions) and simple to complete with only three responses to select from-yes, no and undecided. I read the first survey before answering filling in any circle with my #2 pencil.

I didn’t get too far into the first survey before I became bothered and convinced that the sender could care less what I thought but was merely trying to get me to agree with them. The majority of questions were written in such a manner that a response of ‘undecided’ makes me look like an idiot, and responding ‘yes’ (the response they clearly expected) easily allows the sender to say, ‘see, Jim and ‘the majority’ of respondents agree with us.’

I went to the second survey and maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised but it was the same thing. Unbelievable.

This isn't research. It's ridiculous!

To me, neither showed any bit or respect for the respondent or their opinion. Neither party could care less what I thought but was merely ‘using’ me as a tool to say they’re plans or policies are better than the other party’s. That’s just not responsible research.

Responsible research is respectful of the audiences and values their opinions. Responsible research is not written in a matter in which you can only get the answer you wanted to hear in the first place.

If you truly value the opinion of your audience than by all means do the research responsibly. If you’re simply conducting research for the sake of doing so, don’t. It’s disrespectful and a colossal waste of everyone’s time, effort and money.

One more thing. The surveys lead me to think that perhaps the reason there is such a divide between the two parties is that both are more concerned with being right or different from the other guys than they are with progress. If that’s the case than progress is certain to be a long way off regardless of who is in ‘control’.

But that’s just my opinion. Maybe I’ll take a page from the parties and send out a survey to see who agrees with me but more importantly disagrees with you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Turn Off the Sales!

I've had calls, or conversations, recently with two of our clients who have said, "How do we turn off the sales faucet?" Both have implemented multi-faceted, multi-media marketing campaigns over the past year.

The result? Now they are saying, "How do we handle all of these new opportunities?"
(Sounds like some of them could use some management consulting with regard to growth, expansion and business strategy.)

That is a great problem to have; wouldn't you agree?

For me, it is highly rewarding to see the results of a strategic mix of well-placed media amplify the clients' sales volume. And of course I am thrilled to see our clients doing so well.

So what's the key?

It is not one thing; it's the combination of several things--
- Consistency of brand and message
- Good implementation of a strategic, multi-prong marketing plan
- Research to identify the right, lucrative target market sectors
- Knowledge of the business cycle to maximize timing of advertising
- Positioning of the company and the brand
- Developed sales materials (or collateral) to assist in fulfillment and selling
- Commitment

Kudos to all of the marketing geniuses out there who are getting it right!

Friday, March 10, 2006

How Do You Know?

I loved the previous post by Jim Nester! I am a self-diagnosed research geek.

Once you discover the power of research, especially in marketing, it's like having your eyes opened ... like having an extra level of awareness.

I had the pleasure of teaching a half-day seminar on "Bootstrap Marketing" this week. The seminar was held in Wheeling, West Virginia. The participants were from the non-profit sector. Most were executive directors, marketing staff ... even some board members. Some of the participants were the founders of their organizations! (By the way, the seminar was arranged by The Wellspring Center of Mission West Virginia. Thanks, Jen!)

Naturally, part of the seminar focused on research. One of the participants offered the following observation:

"Those of us in the not-for-profit world, or in government agencies, continue to offer the same old services, year after year after year. We really don't know if anyone is still interested in these services. Not only that, but we rarely ask our audience what other needs they might have."

So, marketing geniuses, here's my challenge to you--especially those of you in the government or non-profit sectors: take the time and the trouble to find out what your audience (or whatever you call them ... clientele, constituency, served public, etc.) wants. Do a survey. Run an opinion poll. Pull together a couple of focus groups. It's really not that hard. Find out if your customers are still interested in "buying" what you're "selling." And, just as importantly, find out what else they may want or need!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Research Equals Results

I’d like to begin this post with a little exercise.

1. Think of a flower.
2. Pick a number between 1 and 10
3. Put three fingers in the air.

You said, “rose”, “7”, and touched your thumb to your little finger, didn’t you?

If you did, you’re not alone. In fact, 96 percent of those who have gone through the same exercise did the same. How do we know that?


While marketing success seldom, if ever, comes down to a matter of choosing a number or picking one’s favorite flower, it is often determined by the quality of research conducted.

Research should be the foundation of your business strategy. Our clients are well aware of our strength in our ability to determine the reality of where services and products are positioned in a consumer’s mind, uncover true public opinion on an issue, and monitor customer satisfaction. We use research as a strategic tool to make our communications and marketing campaigns work more effectively.

You need to determine your course of action after you know where you are at this very moment. Research.

You need to determine the wants and needs of your customers (or if any actually exist). Research.

You need to develop the message that will generate your desired outcome. Research.

You need to know that what you’re doing is working. Research…and research again and again.

In the coming weeks we’ll be posting more Marketing Straight Talk items for your consideration. We hope that you will enjoy them and act upon them. If you need more information or assistance we hope that you will call upon us.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How Many Blades Is Too Many Blades?

Have you been following the race for supremacy in the men's razor category? Talk about competition!

Gillette launches the Mach3 with three blades.
Then comes the Mach3 Turbo - an upgrade.
This is followed by Gillette's Mach3 Turbo Champion - in a racy, Ferrari red. (It looks great on my bathroom counter, by the way.)

Not to be outdone, Schick comes out with the Quattro, featuring four blades. The Quattro hit the market just a few months after Gillette's Mach3.

This month, Gillette responded with its new razor, The Fusion. It has five blades--count 'em f-i-v-e. And that's just on the front face of the shaving head. Get this, the Fusion also has an additional "precision blade" on the rear face of the shaving head. Excessive? Yes. Clever. Also yes! Who had ever thought of doing anything useful with the back of the razor blade cartridge.

I checked the price of a package of refill blades. At my supermarket the price tag was a whopping $27.95. And I thought that the Mach3 refills were sinful at $18.95 for the refill package. I actually feel guilty whenever I have to add razor blades to the weekly grocery shopping list.

I have not tried the Fusion yet ... but I probably will. Gillette usually gets me with its marketing.

Can anyone recommend a good home-equity loan to me? I'm going to need one if I have to begin purchasing Fusion razor blades.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Disruptive Factors in Real Estate--& Elsewhere

We're in the process of buying a house (and selling our old one). Throughout it all, I could not help but recognize that the whole game is changing. Or perhaps it has already changed. In my estimation, during the period when we were looking for our new home, the best properties were not the homes listed by real estate agencies. The most desirable homes were "For Sale By Owner."

There is another channel in our market called "Assist 2 Sell." It seems to be gaining popularity and momentum. Maybe you've seen it in your city or marketplace. The Assist 2 Sell package is a fixed-price bundle of services. You pay something like $2,950 and the Assist 2 Sell team helps you promote your home--web, signs, etc. Their team will also hold an open house and conduct showings for you. If you need more services, there's another price for the upgrade bundle, which you can elect to purchase. While we did not go this route to list our house, it does seem to be appealing to an increasing number of sellers here in the Charleston, West Virgina market.

Whether it's the power of the Internet and e-mail, or some combination of economic factors, the old guard seems to be losing market share to these new, disruptive ventures like Assist 2 Sell. Moreover, it appears that the For Sale By Owner (FSBO)method is cutting into the listing market in a major way, right now. Maybe we've all been influenced by E-Bay. Perphaps we believe we can sell anything by ourselves?

Let's see ... limited service packages and self-service are gaining market share in real estate. Hmmm. That is not grossly different from what's going on in some of the Internet services markets, too. Self publishing. Point and click Website design. A plug-and-chug company logo with the intellectual property services bundled. Don't forget about the travel market. How many of us go and sit down in front of a travel agent nowadays? What about Saturn ... and some of the more progressive car companies? Low-pressure sales reps in Dockers and golf shirts, merely demonstrating the product, not pushing it. They don't do much more than make a copy of the driver's license and toss the keys to the prospective buyer.

All in all, I think that the fixed-price, limited-service offering is an intriguing combination. The times they are "a-changing." Maybe its time for the role of the real estate agency and Realtors to change, too. About a year ago we told a top real-estate client that they should create a spin-off company, not unlike Assist 2 Sell, and compete with themselves to maintain market share. At the time it seemed like a forward-reaching strategy. Today it seems to make all of the sense in the world.

Kudos to the disruptors in the marketplace. They truly are marketing geniuses!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Great Ads #6 - Schmitt Sohne Riesling

One of the primary jobs of an ad is to stop the reader and grab her attention. Think of it as the "Made you look!" phenomenon. I ran across this ad for Schmitt Sohne Riesling in an issue of People, from Fall 2005.

This ad utilizes an odd visual image to stop you. There you go flipping through the magazine when suddlenly this goofy image stops you; it simply doesn't look right to the eye. That little German guy is just entirely out of place in the lovely, soothing photo image of the lady enjoying a relaxing bath in her stylish, cozy bathroom suite. [I'm reminded of those childhood puzzles entitled, "Find the thing that's out of place in this picture." Do any of you remeber those?]

The ad goes from goofy to hilarious once your eye reaches the headline: "Unwind with a little German." That's a great line of ad copy, truly excellent.

To be fair, I'm not sure how effectively the particular brand of wine is presented, though. This ad might accomplish the task of reminding me to think about German wines ... Schmitt Shohne Riesling to a lesser extent. I might also remember the blue bottle, which serves as a visual beacon or icon.

"Unwind with a Little German" ... great humor, great stopper image. One of the best things about the ad is that it doesn't try to do too much. It's not full of heavy copy--doesn't need to be. Aside from the headline, there's only one sentence of copy. This ad allows the photo and the headline to do the work.

Kudos to Schmitt Sohne. You've given us another "riesling" to think about German white wine.