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, August 27, 2008

Survey Demographics - Tip from the Pros

Let's face it--good marketing professionals create and utilize a substantial number of surveys. Whether analyzing, testing or measuring impact, research results drive good planning, good strategy and effective creative. So how can we build better surveys?

Here's a tip from the pros. When you are creating your demographic questions, take advantage of a couple of subtle, but powerful formatting tactics.

1- Collecting age data
Don't construct arbitrary age brackets, such as
18 to 20
21 to 30
31 to 40
41 to 50

Instead, align your age groupings with cohort groups, as follows:
23 years of age or younger - Millennial / Echo-boomers
24 to 31 years of age - N Generation (aka Internet Generation, Gen Y)
32 to 42 - Generation X
43 to 53 - Trailing Edge Boomers
54 to 62 - Leading Edge Boomers
63 to 80 - Postwar Cohort

In such fashion, you can build insights into your age group findings by turning to cohort theory and psychographic trends for comparison.

2- Collecting income data

Instead of formulating arbitrary income brackets such as-
$50,000 per year or less
$50k to $100k
$100k to $150k
$150k to $200k
$200k or more

Create your income brackets to align with US Census data groupings, as follows-
$34,999 per year or less
$35,000 to $49,999
$50,000 to $74,999
$75,000 to $99,999
$100,000 to $149,999
$150,000 to $199,999
$200k or more

Again, you'll have an immediate basis for comparison, a benchmark in the Census data for the particular community, metro, county or state.

Marketing geniuses, what other research/survey tips would you be willing to share? We'd love to hear from you!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Dissapearance of Marketing Genius: Lesson #3

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 Human Action

This lesson is a simple one--but very, very important. From the point at which a human got involved in helping to remedy the situation, the whole mess was fixed in less than an hour. Google PR/Security rep Meghan Lamb sprung into action following an inquiry from a reporter. She called me at 2:00 on a Thursday afternoon ... and by 2:45 I had my blog back.

This flurry of activity, this intervention ... this one fine afternoon, followed 11 days of nothingness. Oh sure, I got an auto-reply e-mail from Google within seconds after I had filed my official online complaint. But I have to tell you, in our increasingly automated, online, self-service world (think Orbitz, Amazon and Peapod), there is nothing to replace a live human being.

Working through Blogger/Google's online service processes left me wondering and feeling worried.

Working with a Google human being, a real person, left me feeling confident, calm and satisfied.

A quick aside ... a war story, if you'll indulge me. I think it is relevant and illustrative. Back in my days working at the state economic development office, we once arranged a fast-track business registration for a Nebraska company opening up a new facility in West Virginia. (Now this was 1995, the early days of the Internet, so most of the requisite filings and registrations were still paperwork processes.) We assembled all of the representatives from every necessary agency and division in one big conference room. Tax department, workers comp, unemployment office, secretary of state, environmental permitting, just to name a few. We set the room up like a "county fair." The folks from Nebraska filled out one master form and wrote three checks. The seven state agency reps shared the information and filled out the forms for the customer. We completed it all in 41 minutes. Without human action, the normal processes would have taken at least five weeks, probably longer.

Here's your question for the day, marketing geniuses: do your business processes offer some degree of human interaction, or are they entirely automated? Are you touching your customers and prospects sufficiently with human interaction? Do you make it easy for your customers to engage with you?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

MySpace: Slap Them in the Face with Your Brand Message

I finally found time to jump into the latest issue of Fast Company. I had been really looking forward to reading the cover-story about MySpace.

Cruising along through the fairly entertaining article, I jumped out of my seat and shouted, "*%# %^#@#+," when I read the following passage:

In June, for example, Anderson and DeWolfe [MySpace execs] created an aggressive new "takeover" feature on their home page, which gets some 45 million views a day -- a shiny bit of advertainment offering marketers a "more creative palette" with which to burn their messages into users' skulls. "You can own the page, whether you're McDonald's, Taco Bell, or Sony with Hancock [the recent Will Smith vehicle]," says Berman. "Our users look at you as content, while you're slapping them in the face with this incredible brand message."

What?!?! What does the language say about MySpace's marketing philosophy?

Burn your messages into my skull? Slap me in the face with your incredible brand message?

Please! That's just wrong on so many levels. It wreaks of Web 1.0. It smacks of one-way communication and broadcasting the advertising message. MySpace, like Facebook and many of the great new Web 2.0 social media platforms, is all about the conversation. It's two-way, not one-way. Not to mention that the language illustrates a lack of respect for the visitor (customer).

Egad! No wonder MySpace is getting dusted by Facebook in terms of growth.

"For all the bravado and new ideas, MySpace still has significant challenges. Foremost among them is the relentlessly evolving Facebook, whose most recent comScore numbers show it widening the gap on MySpace to nearly 10 million worldwide visitors in May -- 124 million for Facebook versus MySpace's 115 million."

It appears that for MySpace it's all about the advertiser and ad revenues--and not all about the user experience (i.e., taking care of the customer). Please join in and add your perspective. Am I over-reacting here?

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Overheard Recently at the Swimming Pool

One fine Saturday afternoon I was cooling off at the neighborhood pool, when I happened to paddle into the the following conversation:

"Twitter? Is that like ... one of those blog things? Yeah, I tried blogging. So many folks told that me I should have a blog. Finally, I told my IT guy to put one of those damn blogs on my Web site. We had it up for four days. Four whole days! And guess what happened ... NOTHING! Not one, single order. I had him take it down the next day."

The above comments [verbatim] are from a highly successful and respected area business professional. She is a consultant who provides advice and counseling services to private-pay clients. While her comments may be a bit hasty and dramatic, she is not foolish, backward, old-school or a novice. She is successful, driven and respected.

I share her commentary with you, not to poke fun at her. Instead, I share it with you to highlight one attitude that exists in mainstream America:

It had better work. And it had better work fast.

Some way, some how, this woman expected a blogging strategy to pay off within four days. In some respect, she is representative of the the universe of potential clients for companies like yours and mine.

Are you offering a service or product that will show results after only four days? What does your client believe? If your service or solution will take longer, how are you managing your client's expectations? Will your client allow ample time for a marketing campaign or a blog to build momentum and show impact, or will they expect the quick, easy solution?

What do you say, marketing geniuses, how long is a reasonable time period for a blogging (or other social media) strategy to generate new business? Gosh, from my perspective, I was glad when my blog brought me my first new customer after four years. The other lady expected results after four days. Maybe I am just too patient.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

On The Air - Mapleonian Takes to the Airways in Pittsburgh

Okay, right off the bat let me say this is a bit of a self-serving post, but Skip encouraged me to post it nonetheless. So here goes.

I am now hosting a weekly NASCAR radio show in Pittsburgh, PA. The show, Threewide With Elliot & The Crew, airs each Thursday and again Saturday at 1:00 p.m.

It's been quite a learning experience. I would never have imagined that it's that difficult to talk about anything for an hour on the air - but it is a lot more difficult than it sounds when you're listening to your favorite show. I've learned just how important some of the things we apply in our everyday day jobs as marketing professionals truly are.

Lesson 1:
Be prepared. Segment one is a recap of the weekend's races so...each week, I watch what I can of the races - something I'll be honest I'd never done until a year or so ago, when I had to start to get a real appreciation for the sport given that a client was about to enter the world of ?NASCAR sponsorship. I read like you wouldn't believe - but not just about racing; about the sponsors (Fortune 500 companies rule NASCAR), about towns that host tracks, you name it.

Lesson 2: Network
I'll be honest, after a while I get a little bored with going to the same meetings and seeing the same people - I love you all but I think if we're all honest with each other, we'd like to get out and see more and more new people. Having said that when I first entered the world of racing I made sure I met everybody I could from team owners to drivers to other media folks (that's come in really handy for recent story pitches). That's been key because Segment 2 is a driver call-in segment. In our 8 weeks on the air I've had drivers in the top 12 from all series including Richard 'The King' Petty.

Lesson 3: Have No Fear!
Too often in marketing, we or our clients, get worried about what might happen (or not happen)and let that guide our efforts. You simply can't do that. You've got to go into every opportunity objectively and confidently. That's been huge for me in this endeavor. I've simply approached this with an attitude that I'm not worried about this week's show because each week I'm learning how to make it better.

Lesson 4: Just have fun!
Think about it. If you're not having fun, you're less likely to put your full effort into the work in front of you. In the case of my show, if I'm not having fun, it shows - or rather you can hear it! So keep it fun. When it's not, take a break and figure out what you need to do to have fun. When you like what you're doing, it's easier to convince your clients -or listeners - to like what you're doing.

So, aside from plugging the show - segments can be found on - I hope I've provided some tips as well.

See you at the track!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Story Pitch 101: Headlines & Deadlines

Recently, my colleague, Skip, and I have been been engaged in some major story pitch -in markets near and far! I'm happy to say we've been rather successful. In fact, we're batting 1,000.

To what do we attribute such success? Well, to be honest there are a lot of factors to our success. First, these pitches have been newsworthy - relevant and compelling. They've been timely. They've tied in with the national news cycle. And, we've called upon our relationships - old and new alike (that's a whole other story for a future post).

But perhaps the most important thing that we've done may surprise you in its simplicity. We've kept the headlines simple and to the point.

You'd be amazed how much a simple, straightforward headline can aid you in your media pitch efforts. It makes sense. Think about it.

First, you don't know every reporter in your market (even if you claim otherwise) let alone those outside it, so the ability to get their attention quickly is of paramount importance. Second, like the agency environment, the media is very deadline driven. So, if the reporter has to figure out the headline or ask 'what's that mean to me and my readers/viewers,' you're wasting their time and yours and you're killing your chances of coverage before they even read the first sentence.

So, keep it simple!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hidden Logo Design: American Stock Exchange

Thanks to marketing genius, Justin Seibert, for spotting this interesting logo design teaser. Justin writes:

I really enjoy your logo analysis and saw one today that caught my eye. Go to the American Stock Exchange Web site and check out the logo at the top for Fixed Rate Options. It reminds me of a different word (don't want to bias you with my thoughts). Would love to see a post or just your thoughts if you have time.
There you go, Justin. Thanks, again.

Readers, let's have your comments! What do you see?

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Coming Up: Another "Hidden Logo Design" Challenge

Friend and comrade, Justin Seibert, gave me a heads-up on a new logo example to share with the community of marketing geniuses. It's sneaky. And I think you will love it. So here's a clue: it is somewhat reminiscent of my 9th grade hairstyle.

If you are not familiar with our Hidden Logo Design series, it is one of the most popular themes on our blog. Here are a few, if you'd like to get up to speed to be ready for this next one that Justin discovered:

Animal Planet


Finding Nemo

Goodwill Industries

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Start-up Attitude

Yesterday, Michael and I traveled out of state to meet with a team of entrepreneurs. This group of four, smart, highly-educated businessmen have launched a technology company. The day was, on the surface, a sales meeting. Yes, we came away with a bundle of great new project opportunities. But as valuable and as important as the sales opportunities were, the thing that stood out to me was the attitude and energy of these folks. They are full of hope, confidence and optimism. They have every intention of making it big and "conquering the world." Their attitude and energy were infectious. Even the language these four used was different, embodying the clarity and differentiation and purpose of a team that has spent a ton of time focusing on their business (not just working in their business).

Our company, Maple Creative, is completing its eighth year in business, which is not to imply that Maple is stale or old or tired. Au contrere, in many respects, I feel that we are just peaking ... coming into our prime. Personally, I have never felt more passionate, committed or optimistic about Maple Creative. Being with those four early-stage entrepreneurs was a reminder of the promise and hope of business ownership. In many respects, they were us--eight or nine years ago. I tip my cap to those guys. Yesterday's experience was a flashback and a blessing.

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