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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Disappearance of Marketing Genius - Lesson #2

Background: Marketing Genius (i.e., this blog) was taken down on July 13. For the ensuing eleven-day period, we lost control of the blog and our domain. During that time, an unknown party seized the blog and began running spoof ads containing links to SPAM proliferation sites, plus other nefarious, unauthorized junk. The episode was a weird, dark abyss. Thanks to the efforts of many of you (our friends, readers and supporters - the marketing genius community), the blog was returned to us on Thursday, July 24. The events associated with the loss and recovery of this blog contain lessons for all bloggers.

So - here is the second lesson: The Power of Social Networks

As mentioned in the previous post, Google responded to me and began to remedy the situation only after receiving an inquiry from a member of the press. What's strange is how the Daily Mail reporter, Tricia Fulks, discovered our story. I did not send a press release to her or contact her directly, nor did any of my colleagues.

Working with friend, blogger and trusted advisor, Jason Keeling of Keeling Strategic Communications, we crafted a press release about the hijacking of this blog. This was a fundamental part of the PR component of our recovery strategy. Jason and I, with help and input from several Maple colleagues, finalized our draft press release on Friday, July 18. Following advice from legal counsel (friend, blogger and trusted advisor, Bob Coffield of Flaherty Sensabaugh & Bonasso, PLLC), we elected to sit on the release over the weekend. We were giving Blogger (Google) more time to respond. Then, having observed no response, Jason posted our release on his blog on Sunday night, July 20.

From the 20th through the 23rd, our press release post from Keeling's blog was picked up on Oncee's blog. In addition, a flurry of messages on Twitter were "tweeted out" by various, supportive friends and followers. I personally "tweeted" several times a day, alternately pointing folks to Keeling's blog and calling out, "Still waiting and hoping for Blogger to respond to the loss of my blog." The subtle point here is that no one directly contacted the traditional press. Following our PR strategy, we were relying on the groundswell of online conversation (i.e., blog and twitter attention) to bring attention--and a resolution--to this troubling matter. It is important to note that I had already notified Blogger/Google through proper channels (on July 17th) but had received no response from them.

On the afternoon of July 23rd, I received the initial inquiry from Ms. Fulks, the newspaper reporter. She was calling to look into this story and to interview me. When I asked her how she discovered news of our blog disappearance, she said, "Someone just handed something off the printer about this." What bloggers should take away from this is that our situation was much more newsworthy to the reporter having originated from third-party sources. If I had called and requested press coverage of this episode, I am fairly sure that her appetite would have been weaker. To me, this illustrates the power of social networks (or social media) to amplify the news value of a business story, especially in a crisis situation like the one we were handling.

A final point, and one not to be overlooked, is the human perspective on the power of social networks. In short, it is the relationship aspect. As I have mentioned, this whole ordeal was very tough for me. From beginning to end, it required 23 hours of my time--none of it planned, none of it generating any business. I was mired in a troubling, unproductive and at times hopeless mess. I felt like crap--a sharp sense of loss, having my creative outlet and four and a half years of effort stripped from me. I was sad. And I was embarrassed that I had been scammed, or had somehow allowed this to happen. What kept me going were the dozens of encouraging messages on Facebook, Twitter and on other blogs' comments. Thanks to all of you for helping me pull through and prevail. Know that I pledge to equal your support.

Come on back for the next lesson - coming soon!

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Disappearance of Marketing Genius - Lesson #1

As promised, I am ready, willing and eager to tell the story about what happened to Marketing Genius last week.

July 13 - The story begins on a Sunday night. I had come into the office for a conference call with a client. (Sunday night was the only time we could find to talk through some strategy on an urgent PR project, and we had to be ready to roll on Monday.) As I was preparing for the 9pm call, I had a few minutes to spare and decided to peek in on this blog. Instead of Marketing Genius, I saw a rather frightening Blogger message screen.

Blog does not exist
click here to claim []

Feeling a bit unnerved, I naturally decided to attempt to log in to and access the blog control panel or dashboard. I was able to log in, but Marketing Genius was completely and mysteriously missing from my dashboard. (I have a few other blogs, which were still displayed.)

It was time for the client phone call, so I had to set my fears aside for a couple hours. Later, I checked again and nothing had changed. I was at a loss. I didn't know how or why this happened, and I felt sick, equal parts panic and dread. Were four and a half years of work gone? Was one of my primary creative outlets permanently stripped from me? Had this wonderful online community been erased? Thus began my troubling, weird, at-times scary, twelve-day episode.

In short, Marketing Genius was taken from me from July 13 to July 24. Google mistakenly took down the blog, and I lost access to the domain. It was temporarily taken over (its ownership was seized) by some third party spammer for several days, during which time this domain was infested with nefarious spoof ads, linking to spammer and malware proliferation sites. The rest of the story is a long, complicated tale that I am happy to share. I'll reveal various useful episodes in the days ahead, and I will strive to spare you the trivial parts.

One key player in all of this is a reporter, a member of the traditional media. Tricia Fulks is a first-year Staff Reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail. She wrote a nice story which was published in today's edition, and she does a fine job of explaining what happened. Since you can get that story, in essence the what and why, from the Daily Mail, my focus going forward will be the learning experience ... the lessons for all of us.

So here we go, this is Lesson #1 - The Power of the Press

Once I was sure that Marketing Genius was down, or perhaps gone for good, I began the process of notifying Blogger and Google about the problem. I dove into Google's prescribed processes for notification. This took several days, as I began meeting with IT gurus, legal counsel and a fellow PR professional. We spent three days in discovery and strategy-making mode. Following those important steps, I officially notified Google on Thursday, July 17. With advisors at my side, we uploaded an official complaint via Google's online form. Within seconds we received an auto-response from Google, stating that our complaint had been received and also curiously warning that a recent party, who had brought legal action against Google, lost their case and had to pay Google the sum of $100,000. (Such sabre rattling was not what I was hoping for, by the way.)

The next six days were torturous, as I waited (and waited) for a response from Google. With our two-fold strategy (legal and PR tactical plans) in place, we took various actions. Those will be highlighted in subsequent posts.

On Wednesday, July 23 (six days later), I got a call from Ms. Fulks, the Daily Mail reporter. She had picked up a press release about this situation and wanted to interview me. We talked through the sequence of events and addressed her questions. She mentioned that she was also planning to contact Google's press office to get their side of the story. I also referred her to our legal counsel for her questions pertaining to legal matters and possible implications.

On the morning of Thursday, July 24 (day seven), Ms. Fulks called back. She informed me that she had spoken to a Google press officer. She told me that the Google rep wished to speak with me directly and that Google thought that things could be resolved. With the contact information supplied by the reporter, I placed a call to Meaghan Lamb in Google's Virginia office.

I spoke with Ms. Lamb at 2pm. She was extremely pleasant and helpful. She took the details of the situation and promised to dig into the problem. She indicated that her team felt that the problem could be resolved fairly quickly and completely. Ms. Lamb needed to speak with some colleagues in Google's California office but promised to call me back the next morning. Within 45 minutes, she called me back saying, "I think we have everything resolved. Are you at a computer?" She asked me to pull up the blog. Everything was back to normal! Next, she asked me to log in to my Blogger account to make sure that I could access the blog. I could!

Long story, short: Google fixed the problem within 45 minutes. I was relieved, if not overjoyed! Yet, it took them 7 days to contact me. That week was a dark, unpleasant abyss, as you might expect. What broke the logjam ... what ended the silence ... and caused Google to take action was an inquiry from the press. When a journalist, a member of "The Fourth Estate," called, Google took action. And that, marketing geniuses, is a patent lesson in the power of the press. The traditional press still wields tremendous power. Those of us in West Virginia have seen this powerful effect in the events surrounding the WVU presidency over the past several months, plus numerous other episodes. As you may know, I am a huge advocate of social media. In fact, I am part of it. But through the disappearance and return of Marketing Genius, I am ever so appreciative of the value, role and power of our traditional American media.

You are invited to stayed tuned, to check back often, as we reveal more of these important lessons for bloggers and communicators everywhere. Let's hear your reactions!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We're Back

Hello, marketing geniuses! Yes, we're back. It's really me, Skip Lineberg, from Maple Creative. If you've been here lately, you have undoubtedly seen some weird stuff at this URL. "Blog Not Found" messages. A spoof image of our blog. SPAM ads. All kinds of weird, unauthorized junk.

But now, we are back. The real deal. I wish I could tell you how great it feels to type these words. It feels great for several reasons, but primarily because for the last 10 days, I had no blog. Marketing Genius was taken away from us about 10 days ago. It feels great to be back blogging again. Thanks to many, many people who helped us through this miserable episode, we regained control of Marketing Genius today around 3:30 pm (8 hours ago) today.

So what happened? And how did it transpire?

It's a long, complicated story. I still do not have all of the answers; neither does Blogger, or Google. We probably will never know all of the details. That's irrelevant. We have nothing to hide. And I promise to share this story with all who want to know.

The hijacking of Marketing Genius is a story of copyright infringement. It involves confusion and misinformation. Conversely, it's a story of the true power and real, inherent beauty of social networking. It's a story of friendship ... of strategy and decision-making. And finally, perhaps more than anything, it is a story of the Power of the Press. We battled back, utilizing a two-fold strategy of legal and media tactics.

There are lessons here for everyone. So come on back tomorrow, and learn more, as we reveal this frightening, complicated series of events. What happened to me could happen to any blogger.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Discussion: Unilever

The last you heard from me I was working on a research paper. Since then, I have written a rough and final draft, and finished the course I was working on the paper for. I aced the paper in case you were wondering. 

So now, I get to provide you with some fun information I discovered. I think I will do this in multiple parts, each blog on a different topic I covered in my paper. 

This time: 


This is the parent company of several brands, including Dove.

Dove began its Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004, using “real women” of many shapes, sizes and ages rather than professional models in its advertisements. Some of you may recall seeing the short film/commercial “Evolution” (look it up on YouTube if you haven’t!) This film shows a women being transformed from average to model-like, with makeup application, hairstyling and the wonders of Photoshop. The film has won two Grand Prix Cannes Advertising Awards and has millions of views on YouTube. Quite a success! 

Unilever also owns another company with award winning advertisements… 

Axe. This brand’s advertisements are quite the opposite of Dove’s. Axe boasts taglines like “It can happen anywhere, the Axe effect” and “How dirty boys get clean.” Many of Axe’s advertisements use the kinds of models that Dove is trying to eliminate. One advertisement in particular seems to promote multiple “encounters” with women… four towels are shown next to a shower, labeled “his,” “hers,” “her sister’s” and “her roommate’s.” 

Some have criticized Unilever for promoting two very different viewpoints, and their spokesperson Anita Larson is quoted as saying “Unilever is a large global company with many brand in our portfolio. Each brand effort is tailored to reflect the unique interests and needs of its audience.” 

So, what do you think? Do you think Unilever is right to promote such different viewpoints for different brands? Do you feel tricked upon discovering the same company that promotes Dove’s “real beauty” also creates raunchy ads for Axe? Are consumers too touchy? 

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Thursday, July 10, 2008


Do you know about "A Word A Day?" It is a fabulous e-mail educational service. Each day Anu Garg and the crew at Wordsmith send you an interesting, unique word to help you expand your vocabulary. It's free (although they do accept donations and subscriptions), and I have enjoyed it for the past 9 years. In fact, I've shared it with many friends and colleagues over the years.

So onto today's word: misoneism. If you're a leader and a change agent, undoubtedly you encounter misoneism frequently. I'd like to think that my misoneism index is near zero. How's yours? As a marketing professional or change agent, how do you overcome misoneism?

noun: A hatred or fear of change or innovation. (mis-uh-NEE-izm)

From Italian misoneismo, from Greek miso- (hate) + neos (new). Ultimately from Indo-European root newo- (new) that also gave us new, neo-, neon, novice, novel, novelty, innovate, and renovate.

I encourage all marketing geniuses to subscribe to A Word A Day ... to visit their fun Web site ... and to play around with their very cool, quirky anagram tool? What's your favorite anagram that is derived from your name? Mine is "Bring Eel."

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Maple Creative Talent Search: Graphic Designer

Recent changes at Maple Creative have created an opportunity to join our talented design team. Do you know of someone who might be described as follows:

Experienced graphic designer (or art director) with 3+ years of relevant work experience
Great attitude a must - optimistic, driven, unselfish, dedicated, honest, upbeat, reliable
Bachelor's degree (or more) - BFA preferred
Wildly creative with a great sense of style
Ability to interpret clients' needs, taste & preferences and to visually translate those into effective design solutions
Ability to conceptualize and plan multi-media campaigns including video and Web
Strong in print, typography/logo/identity, Web/electronic, video/TV
Proficient in Adobe InDesign creative suite
Web programming skills (html, PHP, Flash) preferred but not required
Strong understanding of printing and production processes
Team player with ability to relate and communicate with other designer and biz dev types

If so, please send them our way. Hey- maybe this is you!

This is a great, career-making opportunity to join an established, progressive and growing marketing firm, one whose work has garnered top honors regionally with American Advertising Federation (AAF-WV) and Public Relations Society (PRSA-WV). Please direct all inquiries to me via e-mail to (Skip @ maplecreative dot com). All inquiries will be handled with utmost confidentiality. Thanks in advance for your help, marketing geniuses!

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Independence Day

Dear Marketing Geniuses: Will you join me for a one-day break from the learning and discussion of marketing? I want to invite and urge you to post a tribute to the USA or to share what you appreciate about our great nation. Also feel free to exercise your 1st Amendment right to disagree, if you wish.

July 4th, 2008 - Another Independence Day is upon us, and America remains without question the finest nation that's ever been built in the history of mankind. I am proud to be an American. While that may sound corny to some, and it may not be popular to say anymore, know that it's a heartfelt statement.

On the eve of our nation's birthday, I am thankful to live in a nation where I can think and speak freely. Where I can publish a blog, for instance. I am thankful to live in a nation where I can own property--a house, a business, a vehicle. I'm proud to live in a nation in which I can worship freely and live every day without fear or persecution. The US of A ... it's not perfect, but still the best nation in this world.

Photo: Town square, Ripley, W.Va., July 4, 2001

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

FestivALL - Great or Successful? 10 Ways to Decide

FestivALL was great. You'd find few who would argue anything to the contrary. Given such, was it successful? Did it meet its goals and hit its performance parameters?
I have not seen those numbers, but as a results-driven marketing guy focused on measurement and accountability, here are the things I want to know (for the sake of enabling it to become even greater):

1- How did people hear about FestivALL (especially first-timers) ... did it reach more customers through earned media, through advertising or Web-based marketing?
2- How many people attended the street fair?
3- How many people visited FestivALL for the first time ... how many returning customers?
4- How many people attended more than one event?
5- How many out-of-state visitors did we attract?
6- Did anyone conduct any clipboard-capture interviews to assess customer satisfaction?
7- What did the typical visitor spend, on average?
8- How many people exchanged Twitter messages with the @FestivALL rep?
9- How many folks viewed the event Web site ... and how many posted a comment?
10- Finally--how many people were so moved or engaged as to refer FestivALL to others?

If you live in the Greater Charleston region, or if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you've heard about FestivALL and perhaps seen a few photos from me. Simply put, it is Charleston's summer festival. Truly, FestivALL has something for everyone. As a resident of Charleston, I felt that FestivALL was great. It would be hard to recall a more fun, active and energetic week than last week's FestivALL. There's a positive energy, a buzz about town, that is palpable. I love that feeling! And it fuels my civic pride.

We enjoyed an amazing ArtWalk with 20 participating galleries, featuring the work of twice as many local artists. The downtown streets were crawling with artists, patrons and supporters of the arts! Moving from the fine arts to the performing arts ... we took in a performance by Savion Glover, the world's best tapdancer/percussionist, at our amazing venue The Clay Center. Also last week, we enjoyed a street fair with three city blocks worth of fun, food, families, arts and performances. See Rick Lee's awesome photo chronicle. As if that weren't enough, we jammed out at Blues, Brews & BBQs on Friday, followed by a fabulous Wine and All That Jazz outing on Saturday night, with both events on the beautiful lawn at University of Charleston, along the banks of the Kanawha River.

So was it great ... or was FestivALL successful? I hope someone is addressing those all-too-important marketing questions noted above. And I hope the answer is: it was both ... great and successful!

PS - If FestivALL needs a marketing partner to help address such questions, gather the data, analyze it and work the findings into a strategic marketing plan, please contact me (e-mail to skip at maplecreative dot com) or any one of my colleagues at Maple Creative!

Photo credit: Charleston Gazette (top photo)

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008


This summer, with the economy lagging and gas prices soaring, many folks are taking a staycation instead of a vacation. I heard that term for the first time recently, and I cannot recall where I heard it. But I love it. Appears to have emerged in summer 2006 and gained in popularity with a slight variant this year.

Official Urban Dictionary definition here.

Staying closer to home on vacation ... or staying home instead of travelling at all. The staycation--so 2008, isn't it?The staycation trend has obvious and serious impact for our friends and clients in the travel and tourism industries. What stories have you marketing geniuses heard about smart ways to tap into (or overcome) the staycation trend?

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