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, November 29, 2007

A to Z of Marketing: S is for Storytelling

Last weekend CBS Sunday Morning ran a profile of an elderly gentleman who has won car shows across the country. He doesn’t have the fastest car or the shiniest car, and he certainly doesn’t have the newest car. Frankly, it looks like a step above the Model T.

So why does he keep winning? Answer is, the story. The car might not have significant monetary value, but its story is priceless. A widower, this elderly man uses the car to keep memories of his late wife alive.

It picked up his wife on their first date more than six decades ago. It still holds the engraving from where she carved her name in the steering wheel. It has driven children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now it’s come full circle. A man and his car -alone again.

We say it a lot here at Marketing Genius, but it’s worth saying again: All good marketing is storytelling.

So, what’s the story behind your product? Is it compelling? Does it make people care? Author Jeffrey Gitomer says that the heart and the wallet are connected. If you pull on people’s heartstrings, their wallet pops out. Blunt truth… but truth nonetheless.

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Behind the Scenes of Branding

No doubt, you've heard such phrases as brand awareness and brand equity. If you've been visiting Marketing Genius for a while, we hope you've become familiar with other important terms such as brand positioning, brand essence and brand mission.

Recently, Jim Nester, Emily Bennington and I came to a mutual conclusion. We decided that it is now time to take you behind the scenes of the branding work we do. We feel that you are ready for it and that you've earned this special privilege.

So c'mon ... step around that stanchion, follow that rope, just beyond that black curtain. And--whoa--don't trip over that easel!

Good, you've arrived! Ready to have a look at what else goes on? Ahh - here's the good stuff. This is what really goes on ... behind the branding.

Brandana Potential - an important measure of any brand, this determines how good (or bad) your brand logo will look on a 'doo rag (i.e., a bandana).

B.A.C. - brand alcohol content - the degree to which your brand appeals more strongly to slightly intoxicated consumers (i.e., at cocktail parties, tailgating and keggers). Not to be confused with BUI (more on that later).

Brandapalooza Index - an assessment of your brand's adaptability and potential usage on a concert T-shirt or tie dye.

Brand Stripper Name - a composite consisting of the name of your brand's first pet (typically a pet dog or cat) plus the name of the street that your brand grew up on - mine happens to be Buffy Lincoln, for the record. You must always check this before you launch any new brand.

Brangelina Factor - a predictor, used to measure the probability that your brand will become "adopted by" the Hollywood elite crowd. (Will it become trendy in LA? Is your brand logo likely to become tattooed on Angelina, for example?)

Brandy Warhol Syndrome - inevitably your brand will be given its 15 minutes of fame. Is it ready? What would Andy Warhol do with it? How would he shoot it, or paint it?

Only small doses of this powerful new knowledge are permitted. That's enough for today. We'll show you more next time.

Yeah, we had fun, too. You can just find your way out of the backroom. Careful as you go, now. You might be feeling a little light-headed. It's probably just those SprayMount fumes.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Dip - Seth's New Book

I just started reading The Dip by Seth Godin. Ever dive into a book and find that you can't put it down? That's this book. Seth is a remarkably gifted writer (and marketer). And if you are not reading his blog, you are missing out on some great business and cultural commentary.

Look forward to a full review of The Dip from yours truly, very soon.

We know that you marketing geniuses are voracious readers. So tell us, what book is on your nightstand right now?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

New Maple Creative Web Site - Soft Launch

Our new Web site is up for review. We would love to have you take it for a test drive. In the spirit of connectedness and community, we opted to launch the site at a 85% completion mark and to put it out for the world to see.

We welcome your feedback and candid review as we work toward 100% completion between now and year's end.

Does it tell the story?

Is it memorable?

Does it fit with our brand?

Do you like it better than the old Maple site?

How did the experience and navigation feel?

Let us know what you really think. Lend a sharp eye to our project. See any typos or broken links? What suggestions do you have?

Add your comments. You'll be doing us a big favor in helping to put the finishing touches on our new Web presence. Thanks in advance!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A to Z of Marketing: R - Ready

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you marketing geniuses! Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

I hope that your enterprise is ready for your marketing. So many business owners make the mistake of launching their marketing campaign before they are ready.

Being ready means being prepared. It is having things organized and optimized. It's being set to win!
  • Get your customer service staff ready before you launch a new promotion. Make sure they are trained and informed. Run them through the marketing campaign so that they will know what new customers have seen and will be discussing.

  • Make your Web site ready, before you launch that flight of e-mail blasts. Have a landing page and dress up your home page copy. Be sure there's a call to action.

  • Ensure that your inventory is ready to accommodate increased demand for featured items in retail promotions. Nobody likes "Sorry, we're out of that item."

  • Check to see that your credit department (or service provider) is ready for a wave of new inquiries, prior to launching a new ad that touts your special financing program.

  • Don't run an ad promoting your niche practice area when that particular group leader is going to be out on her two-week vacation--or immersed in a month-long, all-consuming client engagement. Make sure the service experts are ready and available.

  • Ready your arsenal of response materials and sales collateral (brochures, case studies, testimonial sheets, sales slicks, white papers, proposal forms, folders, etc.) before you deploy the big, splashy sales promotion.

  • Conduct the product and sales training before you run the ads for the new product.

  • Do not market until you are ready. Just don't do it!

Every dollar spent on marketing a dysfunctional or poorly supported product or service is a dollar wasted. First, spend the time and the money fixing, informing, optimizing and preparing. Then, and only then, do the marketing. While this advice runs counter to the "just hurry up and put something out there" street wisdom of late, it is indisputably true--and it is what drives results. That's what you care about: being successful, not being trendy, right?

Now, let's get those Thanksgiving preparations complete before the guests start arriving! They are happy you invited them. They'll be even happier if you are ready for their arrival and prepared to provide a great Thanksgiving experience.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

The Perchidant Garden

Click here: The Perchidant Garden-Insomnia Film Festival

This wonderful short film was created by a team of talented high school students from George Washington High School in Charleston, West Virginia. My nephew, Jack Burgess, is one of the creative minds behind this cool project, which was entered in Apple's Insomnia Film Festival.

Enjoy! Please leave a comment for the students. I know they would really appreciate your feedback.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

A to Z of Marketing: Q is for Quell

If you’ve noticed the Marketing Genius blog has been surprisingly quiet lately, it’s because Skip and I have been attending the first annual Create West Virginia conference all week. This event brought together a mixed bag of the state’s leaders for an insightful planning session on how to attract and retain New Economy jobs in our region. It was an amazing, productive experience and I encourage you to see for yourself at

There’s no doubt that the Create West Virginia conference was a smashing success. But if you rewind the tape about six weeks, here’s what you’d find:

> A nervous planning committee that needed at least 200 registrants, but only had 60.
> A five-figure budget deficient.
> A few secondary team members voting to stop work altogether for fear of going down with a sinking ship.

How do you overcome negative numbers? As any seasoned event planner will attest, you dig in, you target, you expand your reach, you mail, you call and, yes, you physically get in your car and go tell people why they need to attend. It takes leadership, grit, tenacity, faith, and a lot of shoe leather to make it happen – but it can be done.

On the other hand, it is far easier to sit in the corner and poo-poo the effort, so that’s what most people do. Don’t be one of them. Quell the pessimism. Quell the inherent voice that says, “This will never work”, “We’ve never done it that way”, and so on.

If you find yourself becoming a CAVE person (i.e. a Citizen Against Virtually Everything), realize that you are holding back your team, then make a vow to find the germ of greatness in every “bad” idea. Build on that until it becomes something you can rally around.

Finally, work like hell.

And that’s exactly what the planning committee of the Create West Virginia Conference did - which is why they had well over 200 attendees at their event - and why they are already planning for next year.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Snowflakes Spotted & Starbucks Red Cup

Jim Nester and I were up in Bridgeport, West Virginia today. Coming out of Starbucks, we saw a few, scattered snowflakes in the air. Though it seems early, last year's first flurries were in late October, as I recall.

Also, big news for all Starbucks fans like me, the annual Red Cup promo rolls out tomorrow! I am always impressed with the planning, coordination, execution and creativity that this brings.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Book Review: The Elements of Persuasion

What do Empedocles, Bill Clinton, Sun Tzu, Joe Montana and Warren Buffet have in common? [Hint ... the United States Marine Corps has it, too.] They all understand and have mastered the persuasive power of storytelling.

I recently finished reading The Elements of Persuasion, by Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman. This wonderful, non-fiction (business/psychology) book, small in size (5" x 7.5") and just over 200 pages in length, is hot off the presses of Harper Collins Publishing. Its promise of helping readers "use storytelling to pitch better, sell faster and win more business" is a strong benefit statement. The authors back it up with great, instantly applicable material and a rich, enlightening approach. The material is easy to follow and each chapter builds upon the previous one. I loved the "pace" and flow of the book with its shorter, digestible chapters of roughly 20 pages.

Right off the bat, the authors give us relevant theory and techniques. We learn the principle that a story is a fact, wrapped in emotion that compels us to take an action that transforms our world. Next we're presented the five elements of story: passion, hero, antagonist, awareness and transformation. The fact that I was able to recall these quite easily, without peeking at the book speaks volumes! The writing is superb and the persuasive, convincing material is cogently presented and tightly organized.
Hey, let's face it: principles, theories and techniques are bland and uninspiring. This is where the authors shine, as they work their magic as teachers--and persuaders. Chapter by chapter, Maxwell and Dickman illustrate, inform and teach, bringing their teachings to life through one great story after another. I don't think I will ever forget the Ritz Carlton's WOW Stories or Liz Heller and the red Vespas. From studies of brain cognition and memory to behind the scenes looks at the scripting of TV shows and commercials, The Elements of Persuasion helps the reader to master the science and the art of storytelling. I have already put this new knowledge into action in my own storytelling at work and with my children (perhaps even in my blogging?).

For the sake of balance, I feel it necessary to offer at least one criticism. So here's mine: there were just a few too many references to the TV program, House, which I have only watched once or twice. In those references, I felt a bit like an "outsider." Not that big of a deal, on the whole.

Here's what it all boils down to for me. Number one ... I finished this book. Devoured it would be more accurate. That's always a good indication, naturally. Next, and equally important, the material stuck with me--I learned. Finally, I have already given my copy to a friend to read. Those things in mind, I give this book a hearty, p-h-a-a-t recommendation.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

A to Z of Marketing: P - Perception

It doesn't matter what you think should be ... or hope for ... or wish that customers believed. It does not even matter what you think you know. What matters most--the only thing, really--is what prospective customers perceive about your company, its people and its product/service offering.

Perception is reality. That is the first law of marketing!

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Friday, November 02, 2007

A to Z of Marketing – O is for “One Doesn’t Work”

Would you place all your life’s savings into one stock or mutual fund? Of course you wouldn’t. Yet, it's baffling that so many companies place all of their marketing investment in one basket. Some rely solely on newspaper advertising. Some rely on radio advertising alone. Still others focus solely on direct mail, coupons or flyers.

Marketing plans that rely on one tactic are fatally flawed.

The single-prong approach assumes you will be able to identify the one channel, or medium, that will enable you to connect with your prospective customers. Truth is, there’s no such thing. 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. With a single-prong approach, you might just miss them entirely.

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