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, June 29, 2006

Calculating Margin of Error on Surveys

If you want to get a really confusing, convoluted answer, ask a research professional, an economics guru or a statistics professor how to calculate the margin of error for a survey. Whoa! You might do better acquiring the secret recipe formula from Coca-Cola. The folks that I've asked either refer to a very complicated calculus exercise that involves integrals and a ratio of "big N" to "little N" ... or they "hem" and "haw" and "harrumph" passing the matter off as being something that cannot be precisely determined.

There's nothing that irks me more than being buffaloed, BS'd or brushed aside. Sufficiently curious and sufficiently frustrated by not getting a direct answer (and not finding it in my statistics textbooks, by the way), I set out on a quest to find the formula.

At Maple Creative, we our philosophy is to provide the "straight talk" of marketing. In this spirit, we are committed to sharing great tools, tips and resources with our fellow marketing geniuses. Today, I am pleased to point out this really cool application that enables you to calculate the margin of error for a given sample size on a statistical survey. And conversely, this Web application can also be used to help you calculate the required sample size for a particular margin of error. Thanks to the folks at software maker, RaoSoft, Inc. for sharing this free tool with the world.

If you want more information and some of the statistical theory to explain these calculations, here's a very helpful article from Dr. Pamela Hunter, provided by the folks at Six Sigma, Inc.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Great Ads #7: Jet Mirage Nightclub

This is a great ad because of its simplicity. It is spare with words but rich with conveyed meaning. In fact, there are only 8 words in this ad (not counting the small print with the contact mechanism).

While I have not visited Jet at the Mirage Nightclub in Las Vegas, I now know that it is popular, stylish ... perhaps rising above the level of trendiness. Black never goes out of style, regardless of the trendy, "in" color of the season. The ad tells me that Jet is "the new black," which says that I can't go wrong by choosing it. Like the color black, it is basic ... a staple, a necessary component.

I love the typography of this ad. The simple, sans-serif font, presented in all caps is complemented by the ultra-contemporary font used for the word "Jet." Likewise, the ad is bold in its usage of color. White on black--reverse text. This treatment reinforces the metaphorical theme of "black."

The unique selling proposition (USP) of this ad is straightforward. Jet promises the benefit of coolness ... of fitting in ... of being more popular by visiting this particular nightclub. The advertiser promises to save us the time and trouble of trying out a slew of nightclubs by taking us straight to the right choice.

Almost all great ads communicate more by way of what is left out of the ad copy, instead of what is included in the ad copy. In advertising, less is definitely more. So, marketing geniuses, the next time you are working on an ad focus on cutting, condensing and distilling your copy. Whenever possible, say it through images and design--not through your ad copy.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Welcome New Readers

If you are new to the Marketing Genius blog, or if you're returning after an extended absence, please accept a sincere welcome.

It occurred to me to that it was time for a "reset." In the words of Admiral James Stockdale (Ross Perot's running mate VP from the presidential election of 1992), "Who am I, and why am I here?"

I'm the founder and leader of this band of bloggers. My name is Skip Lineberg. I am one of the founding partners (along with Michael Haid and Steve Haid) of a marketing firm, Maple Creative, based in Charleston, West Virginia. Our company is in its sixth year, and this blog has been around since April of 2004. I started this blog on the same day that I saw a blog for the first time. I'm not a bit ashamed to admit that it was Seth Godin's blog that inspired all of this. (Seth - count me among your legion of fans and admirers!)

We had the distinct surprise and honor of winning an award as one of the People's Choice Best Blogs (Honorable Mention) in 2005. That was, without question, the tipping point for this blog. Thanks, again - by the way, to the gracious folks at Marketing Sherpa who run the annual "Best Blog" contest.

Today, our blog is read by friends and followers across the globe. We average about 90,000 hits per month. And we are extremely grateful to have loyal 125 subscribers, who receive our content directly, as soon as it is posted. (To our subscribers and loyal followers--we sincerely appreciate you, and we love to hear from you!)

Over the course of this blog's history, I've had the joy of writing, working, blogging and collaborating with a cast of highly talented colleagues. I like to refer to them as Mapleonians. If you are a regular reader ... or if you work your way through the archives you have heard from many of them.

What do we cover on this blog? Quite simply, we cover anything that is marketing related. You will find theory, as well as "how to" tips. You'll find useful resources and handy rules of thumb. We share case studies and real-world stories, ranging from local to national to international. You will occasionally see commentary on oddities and curiousities. We'll hit on topics ranging from the latest technology to what's hot in pop culture (and why it's hot).

Why do we blog? (I love this question!)

We blog because we are creative. This blog is a creative outlet for all of us--the Mapleonians. We love to create, to think, to observe and to write. We see the world through marketing eyes. Sometimes things make sense through those eyes; other times things do not. We blog because we love interacting with you, our readers. We blog because it lends credibility to our work and to our collective knowledge base. Our blog has gotten us noticed more times than I can count. It has brought us inquiries from prospects and from the media. Blogging has enabled us to meet, interact with and become friends with other marketing professionals across the blogosphere. It has increased traffic to our Web site in a quantum manner, an increase that was previously unimaginable. Today, more than 70% of the visits to our Web site come by way of this blog.

So, here you are. Know that you are welcome. Please come back often. And finally ... please tell us two things, fellow marketing geniuses:

1- What else do you need to know about how this evolved?
2- What would you like to see covered here at Marketing Genius ... what can we help you with? What interests you?

Friday, June 23, 2006

More Hidden Logo Design Elements

As the parent of two young children, I had seen the "Finding Nemo" logo hundreds of times. Then, strangely, the other day when I found the CD case lying on the dining room table I saw--for the first time--a hidden design element in the logo.

Do you see it yet?

If not, perhaps you will need to fish around a bit.

Have fun, marketing geniuses!

If you like these "Hidden Logo Design Elements" brain teasers, here are a few from the past.


Big Ten Conference


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Marketing Dictionary - A Useful Reference

I found this dictionary of marketing terms at the American Marketing Association's Web site and wanted to share it with my fellow marketing geniuses. From my perspective, it is very helpful to have some "gold standard" definitions, since marketing jargon gets tossed around so freely. I am still exploring the American Marketing Association site, but I promise to share other useful marketing tools, as I find them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Marketing Geniuses All Around the World

Greetings this evening to all of our visitors and fellow marketing geniuses.

We are blessed to have an ever-growing and increasingly international audience for this blog.

So tonight, we say hello to our readers from the following locations:
Quezon City, Manila, Phillipines
Annecy, Rhone-Alpes, France
London, England
Groningen, Netherlands
Montreal, Canada
Johannesburg, South Africa
Leeds, England
New South Wales, Australia
and State College, Pennsylvania, USA

Identification of our visitors courtesy of a really cool technology called IP2Map.

Up 30% Over Last May

Heard recently in a visit with a Maple Creative client:
"Our sales are up 30% over May of last year." (A retailer)

And from another one of our successful clients:
"We're closing out our fiscal year in June with our second, consecutive record-setting year. We thought last year, which was the best in the company's history, would be tough to match. Total revenues and net profits for this year were even better."
(A business services client in the financial sector)

This is music to our ears. Nothing could be more satisfying to hear.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Each One Teach One

Recently I sat next to a man named Mark Hoog at a restaurant in D.C. We struck up a conversation and I learned that Mark used to be a pilot for United Airlines. Eventually we started talking about careers and mentoring. He said he had a mentor at United named Jason Dahl who changed his life. He said Dahl took him aside one day and told him people talk about other people in business for two reasons – because they’re either great at their job or because they’re not very good at their job.

“But people don’t talk about you,” said Dahl. “Why is that?”

Mark told me this encounter made him think about his career in a new light, as if everything he did from that moment on had a new purpose. Personally, I believe that his story is yet another example of how mentors change lives.

Tragically, Jason Dahl was the pilot for United Flight 93 that went down over Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11th. At his memorial service, Dahl’s son read from a Dr. Seuss book that his father used to share with him every night before bedtime. Inspired by the power of books, Mark started a children’s publishing company called Growing Field ( in honor of his fallen mentor.

And though we only spoke briefly, I’m sure he’s great at it.

{Reprinted from because some stories just have to be told.}

Measurement Eliminates Argument

The idea that marketing is difficult to quantify is a misconception. These days, it has never been easier to track where your customers are coming from. Example: If you run ads in three different publications, use a different web link for each one. This will not only ensure you know exactly how many customers came from each outlet, but it also allows you to create targeted landing pages for each one. With hard numbers to refer to, the decision on which publication to stick with becomes easy.

Measurement eliminates argument.

Ten years ago, agencies recommended different phone lines for different magazine ads. If customer X used the -5555 line, for example, you knew that was a referral from Magazine Y. Same theory – different tactic. How much easier things are today! When I send out an email newsletter for one of my clients, I can not only track who purchased from it, I can track who opened it. So when customers ask how their campaign fared, I can tell them to the dollar.

Measurement eliminates argument.

The point is you don’t have sit around and debate whether or not your marketing programs are working anymore. All you have to do is:

1.) Start tracking your campaigns
2.) Keep what’s working
3.) Toss everything that’s not

Is this a great business or what?

Lessons from a One-Year Old

As we celebrated my baby son, Sherman's, first birthday with family this weekend, I was reminded of an important lesson that's relevant to sales & marketing. It's important for anyone in customer service, really.

The group was singing "Happy Birthday to You" to him. He wasn't really too excited until we got to the verse, "Happy Birthday dear Sherman." When he heard his name (sung by 15 voices) his eyes widened and his face lit up with the biggest smile. It was such a cute reaction that we sang the song over about four more times. Same reaction each time.

We all love to hear and see our name. It's music to our ears ... it's something golden to each of us.

So marketing geniuses, I encourage you to keep this lesson in mind. Personalize things. Use your customer's name. Find a way to work it into your e-mail message. Mention it a time or two in your next conversation, or proposal or letter.

I wonder if your office has a welcome sign? Who wouldn't feel special if they arrived at an office for a meeting to see: "Welcome, _____ (your name here) ______" on a welcome sign, either electronic or old school?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Budget for Marketing

We face this question almost on a daily basis: "How much should I spend on marketing?"

Answers to this question tend to be vague and elusive. Further, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer or forumula. Nonetheless, I'll take a stab at an answer, since the question is so common.

I'd like to begin by re-framing the question as follows: "How much should you invest in your marketing program?" Then, I would follow with "How much do you want to grow?"

In a survey published by the American Marketing Association, those companies whose mode of selling is primarily business-to-business spent an average of 3.49% of total revenues on marketing. The AMA defines marketing as direct-selling expenses, marketing communications, marketing support, market research and telemarketing. AMA also found that the smallest companies spent more than the average.

Over the years, the Inc. 500 average for marketing budgets has hovered around 10%.
Additional detailed analysis is presented as follows:

3% of Inc 500 firms allocate <1% of total revenues for marketing
43% of Inc 500 firms allocate 1%-5% of total revenues for marketing
25% of Inc 500 firmr allocate 6%-10% of total revenues for marketing
18% of Inc 500 firms allocate 11%-20% of total revenues for marketing
9% of Inc 500 firms allocate 21%-50% of total revenues for marketing

We generally recommend that clients invest 5% of total revenues in marketing. However, if the campaign supports the launch of a new company or a new product/service, we recommend a marketing budget of 7.5% for the first year.

As an example, let's say your company has been in business for several years. Last year you recorded $1.5 million in total revenues. Your marketing budget should be at least $75,000 (five percent of $1.5M).

It's not a perfect benchmark, but it's a reasonable starting point.
[Reprinted from July 2004 - Best of Marketing Genius series summer '06.]

2nd Law of Marketing

The 2nd law of marketing is the same as the 2nd law of finance: Do not put all of your eggs in one basket. You wouldn’t place your life’s savings into one stock or mutual fund would you? Of course you wouldn’t.

Many companies that we meet place all of of their marketing investment in one basket, unfortunately. Some rely solely on newspaper advertising. Some rely on radio advertising alone. Still others are solely banking on direct mail, such as coupons or flyers. Marketing plans that rely upon only one tactic are fatally flawed.

"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you have." (Emile Chartier)

The smart strategy is to diversify your marketing. In fact, so much of marketing involves resource allocation, which done wisely is based on research and strategic planning. Face it; your customers view a wide variety of media. They read, surf the Internet, watch TV, listen to radio, see billboards, get mail and attend events. Which of these channels make the most sense for you in terms of where your customers invest their time and attention? Which channels can you afford? Remember, there is not one right answer, despite what many of our friends in media sales might tell you.

The answer is a diversified marketing plan. We’ll help you figure it out. So, do you have all your eggs in one basket?

[Reposted from July 2004. We'll be re-posting some of our most popular, widely read essays and commentaries over the summer. We welcome your feedback.]