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, May 30, 2007

What’s the Deal with All the Boring Voicemail Greetings?

WHY are voicemail greetings such a yawn these days? “You have reached Bob Smith with Widget, Inc. I’m not in right now, but please leave your name and number, and I’ll return your call as soon as possible.”

If you catch someone’s voicemail today, there’s a 99.9% chance that you’ll hear some variation of the above. I had one of these dull greetings myself until about five minutes ago when I decided to change it to the following:

Welcome to Emily Bennington’s voicemail, Marketing Director for Maple Creative. Sorry for missing your call – let me know what you need and we’ll make it happen.

It’s not award-winning by any measure, but at least it doesn’t state the obvious (i.e., I’m not in) or insult the caller by telling them what they already know to do (i.e., leave a message).

All day long I sit with clients and tell them how to differentiate themselves and rise above the noise. Sometimes this is accomplished with grand, sweeping acts – a large-scale TV buy for example – but sometimes you can stand out just as much simply by doing the small things a little differently.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Living in Charleston Rates High with Kiplinger

Thanks to fellow blogger Bob Coffield for the suggestion to post this great publicity for our lovely city, Charleston, West Virginia.

Congratulation to Charleston, West Virginia for its ranking in Kiplinger's Best Citites for Every Stage of Your Life cover story. The ranking includes the top 25 places to launch a career, raise a family, retire in style, and more. Charleston was ranked under the Best Cities for Empty-Nesters. Here is what Kiplinger had to say about Charleston in its online content (you can view this via the slide show feature linked in the article):
Population: 301,716
Cost-of-Living Index: 93 (100 being national average)
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class: 27.9%
Bohemian Indicator: 69
Creative-Class Salary Growth (2000-2005): 9.8%

Charleston has an interesting combination of a low cost of living with a
relatively strong creative class. The city is surprisingly cosmopolitan, with
fine restaurants, art galleries, specialty shops and cafés along its tree-lined
downtown streets.For those looking into Charleston don't miss local photo
bloggers, ImageSmith (Tom Hindman) and Rick Lee, for some super
shots of Charleston and West Virginia. Check out just one of the
fantastic photos
of downtown Charleston and the Kanawha River. The photos
from the two local photo bloggers sure beat the photo Kiplinger used in its
online content from the Charleston Visitors Bureau.

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How easy is it to be your customer?

Not all marketing is about ads and signage. Marketing is also about the experience customers have with your product or service. So make it convenient and easy for them to enjoy it.

Take credit card machines for example. Just this week, I’ve encountered two shops that don’t take cards, which is dumbfounding to me as both a consumer and a marketer.

However, the real problem for these business owners is bigger than a credit card machine. It’s about the fact that I – like most of their customers – won’t tell them I don’t come to their business because I don’t carry a checkbook, I just don’t come to their business.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More on Logo Design Elements - Staples

The Staples logo is a familiar one, isn't it? You probably see it almost every day. But have you ever looked closely at it. There's a small but unique design element that has been cleverly worked into one of the letterforms.

Do you see it now? Can you tell what it is, or what significance it has to the business? Do you like it?

Over the years, we have posted several examples of hidden design elements in logos. I'm a huge fan of cleverly design logos, especially those with little subtleties. (And I am a huge fan of the people who create such designs!)

Check out a few from the past. Some are more subtle than others:

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Friday, May 18, 2007

New Phishing E-Mail - Frighteningly Realistic

Continuing on the e-mail saga, I was reminded that we cannot be too careful these days. Whether you are a marketer or not, you should be wary of opening anything from an unknown source, anything that is unsolicited--and especially anything with embedded files or code. I share this story in the hope that it will help you avoid the hazards of e-mail viruses, phishing scams or identity theft. This one almost got me.

Earlier this week I was shocked to see an e-mail message from the Better Business Bureau notifying me that someone (a Marcia E. Whittington - I have never heard of her) had filed a complaint against Maple Creative. While I was not aware of anything that we had knowingly done to warrant such a filing, I was troubled by the message.

It looked official to me ... at least initially. The message originated from a sender with the Better Business Bureau suffix ( Plus, it had the organization's logo masthead graphic embedded into the message. Topping this off was an apparent case number that had been assigned.

However, upon further examination, I noticed in the message text a hyperlink. Through my message preview pane I placed my mouse over the hyperlink and saw that it was linked to an odd URL with ".exe" at the end. This indicates an executable file, or progam code. I knew better than to click on any hyperlink to executable code or files. At that point, I became more suspicious and set out to search for "Better Business Bureau e-mail hoax." After some surfing and searching, I found the following press release on the BBB site.

BBB Issues Alert for Phishing Attack Targeting Thousands of Businesses and Consumers

Scam uses the “BBB” Name to Attract Victims

For Immediate Release

UPDATE - Arlington, VA, March 1, 2007 - The Better Business Bureau System warns all businesses across the United States and Canada of a spoofing scam using the BBB name and a false BBB e-mail address to entice recipients to access potentially damaging hyperlinks.
In February, a firm had its computer system hacked and that firm's system generated thousands of counterfeit messages to businesses and consumers, purporting to be a complaint filed with the BBB. Recently, another firm was hacked and similar emails have been received by businesses across the country.

The attack has NOT affected the computer system of any BBB nor have any of their data been compromised. As with most other phishing attacks, the perpetrators have attempted to pose as a respected business to gain the confidence of phishing victims. The BBB is working with authorities to thwart these malicious attacks.

The most recent e-mail has a false return address of and a phishing hyperlink citing a BBB complaint case number, for example, "DOCUMENTS FOR CASE #BBA749BED0". These links actually direct access to a subdirectory of the hacked firm's website where users are asked to download documents related to the complaint. The download is actually an executable file that is believed to be some form of a computer virus.

All recipients are advised that any e-mail from the address is not coming from any BBB and should be considered counterfeit. The BBB strongly encourages recipients of any such message to delete the message immediately without clicking on the "DOCUMENTS FOR CASE" links.

The phishing e-mail return address of does not exist and is being "spoofed." Spoofing occurs when an e-mail address is altered to appear as if the message originated from a legitimate source. This is a common practice for both spam e-mail and phishing operations.

Phishing is a term coined by computer hackers, who use e-mail to fish the Internet hoping to "hook" recipients into giving them logins, passwords and/or other sensitive information. In all these scams, the phisher first impersonates a legitimate company. In a typical scam, the phisher instructs recipients to click on a convenient link to receive or provide information that can then be used by phishers to access the recipient's sensitive personal or business information. For more information about phishing and for tips to avert other scams, please visit

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Charleston Area Alliance Launches New Site

I was excited to see the Charleston Area Alliance launch its stylish, powerful new Web site this week. Take a look.

Kudos to Matt Ballard and his team on this great accomplishment!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Marketing’s Magic Bullet?

To follow-up on Skip’s post below, too often businesses look for the magic bullet when it comes to marketing. Executives want the “one trick” that will have people lining down the block to buy whatever it is their organization is selling.

The real trick, however, is knowing there’s no such thing. Like the YMCA, many businesses will hemorrhage funds and chase their tails for years before realizing that successful marketing requires a layered approach.

From the church that wonders why one postcard mailing didn’t fill the pews, to the retail business owner who learns the hard way that “word of mouth” is not a communications strategy, business’ graveyard is filled with tales of single-tactic marketing “plans.”

So kudos to the marketing geniuses at the Y, and to Skip, who no doubt was among the architects of their triumphant, multi-layered campaign.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

YMCA Ten Thousand

The YMCA of the Kanawha Valley is a wonderful community organization. I've been a member for a long time, and I am also a member of its board of directors. As such, I have had the pleasure and privilege of leading a marketing and membership retention committee. This work enables me to collaborate with the talented staff of the YMCA, plus a cadre of talented and tireless business leaders from the community.

Here's the big news: recently the YMCA of the Kanawha Valley hit a new, all-time high membership number. As of the end of March, there were 10,000 members across its three branches. This has been a long-time goal for the YMCA, one that has never before been achieved.

"How did they do it," you might wonder?

What was the one thing that put them over the hump? It was not one thing. It was a combination of things that led to success. The power of a strategic marketing plan enabled the YMCA to reach its goal of 10,000 members. In December 2006, the staff began implementation of a strategic marketing plan that the marketing committee had created and the board had approved. That strategic marketing plan, assembled over the course of six weeks, included the following tactics:
  • Three-part direct mail campaign
  • Radio advertising
  • New tailored, program offerings
  • Web site redesign and integrated e-newsletter
  • Segmentation of the market
  • A special-price offer
  • Television advertising
  • Print advertising
  • Special events
None of these tactics were new or revolutionary. What was different this year ... the thing that enabled the results ... was the fact that all of the effort, investment, energy and awareness (in fact all of the tactics) were aligned around a few common, concise, clearly defined goals.

As the marketing genius understands, this alignment, backed by planning & coordination, with its synergistic result, is the true power of marketing. While you are here, take a moment to check out the brand-new, gorgeous, content-rich YMCA Web site.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Selling the Benefit: Duracell

I am very impressed with the new Duracell battery advertising campaign. Have you heard it or seen it. I've caught this campaign on TV and radio. The most impressive part to me is that Duracell understands that it is not selling batteries. No, the company is selling the benefits that its batteries provide.

The advertisements are a series of 30-second case studies. In each, the Duracell battery is feature in a critical application. Here are a few examples:

The SignalOne Voice Alarm - studies show that when a fire happens in the middle of the night, the most reliable method of waking a sleeping child is to have the fire alarm loudly project the sound of his mother's voice (a pre-recorded message: "honey wake up; there's a fire in the house.) The SignalOne alarm is equipped with the Duracell battery. To whom would you entrust your child's life in the event of a fire? Duracell the battery that's trusted everywhere.

Heart Monitors - in hospitals the heart monitors that are used on patients following open heart surgery are equipped with Duracell batteries. When monitoring every heartbeat matters, which brand of battery do hospitals trust? Duracell, of course.

Glucose Meters - its more than just a finger stick. It's about your health. Some things are too important to take chances with. Make sure your glucose meter is equipped with a Duracell battery, the brand that is trusted everywhere.

Zoll Defribulator - a vignette ad that alternates between a proud mother snapping photos of her son at graduation ... and a sequence in which that same boy one year prior had a heart failure during a basketball game. The same battery that enables Mom to preserve the memories allowed the medical team to preserve his life with a Zoll Portable Defribulator, powered by Duracell batteries.

What is Duracell selling? Far from promoting batteries, Duracell is selling peace of mind. Duracell is selling the benefits of avoiding worry, living longer and improving one's health. That's smart marketing and a great ad campaign. Kudos to the marketing geniuses behind the Duracell campaign.

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