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.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Public Relations in IMC

This week's discussion I am instructed to do a search for a story about a new product launch, like Coca-Cola Blak:

In addition to the story placement, what other public relations tactics were used to introduce this product? What tactics could have been used that were not?

This week, I need suggestions for a product with superior examples of public relations efforts, as well as your thoughts, opinions and answers to these questions.

Thanks again! Hope to hear from you!

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Friday, September 26, 2008

W.Va. Eastern Panhandle - Creative Community Under Construction

Though I have lived in Charleston, W.Va., for the past 15 years, I was born and raised in Martinsburg, a small town in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle. Before I settled in Charleston, I lived all over the eastern U.S. (during my GE days). That gives me some perspective and a basis for comparing places. Let's compare the creative community aspects between the Capital Region and the Eastern Panhandle.

For the sake of background, let's define a creative community. This post, and others like it, is presented in support of the CreateWV initiative and the Vision Shared Creative Communities Team. Basically, a creative community has a significant presence of creative sectors of the economy, such as technology, science, research, design, entrepreneurs and professional arts. But importantly, in addition, creative communities are marked by outstanding educational institutions & programs, as well as interesting, rich and inviting "third places" like parks, museums, coffee shops and galleries. Thriving, prosperous creative communities also have strong, abundant and accessible technology networks and are tolerant in nature, accepting and welcoming all types of people. For more background, check out and the CreateWV blog. And if you really want to embrace the concept, come to the Create WV Conference 2008, Oct. 20-22, at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

Charleston is a creative community, without a doubt. Sure, it has room--and potential--for more creative growth. But there's a critical mass of creativity here. From FestivAll to Art Walk, and from the Clay Center to Mountain Stage, there's plenty to enjoy in terms of creative arts, fine arts and entertainment. But enough about Charleston. Several other bloggers will be touting creativity in the capital of the Mountain State.

Eastern Panhandle Snapshot
Let's shift our focus eastward by about 300 miles or five hours driving time. The state's Eastern Panhandle is a small, four-county region of some 175,000 residents. Geographically, statistically and economically, it is part of the huge and growing Baltimore-Washington, MSA. While Charleston is somewhat landlocked, the Eastern Panhandle lies in the midst of a very metropolitan, urbanized part of America. In fact, five other state capitals are a shorter driving distance than its own capital.

The differences don't end with geography. The terrain is different; the Eastern Panhandle is relatively flat. The media is different; the major TV networks broadcast from DC and Baltimore and the local newspapers rarely report on new from Charleston. The economy is different, too; there is no coal mining in the Eastern Panhandle. Instead of WVU and Marshall sports fandom, in the Panhandle the mantra is "Go Orioles!" or "Hail to the Redskins!"

By contrast, Martinsburg and the Eastern Panhandle is not as much of a creative community, at least not in a "boundary" sense. While there are not as many creative assets within the four-county panhandle, there are hundreds nearby. From the National Gallery of Art in Washington, to Wolf Trap (concerts and stage) in Northern Va., there is so much to enjoy within an hour's drive. Residents of the Eastern Panhandle cross borders and boundaries all the time. In fact, along one 30-mile stretch of I-81, you can cross four state borders. If you live in the Eastern Panhandle you move about--quite a bit--and things like county/state borders are less important. In that sense it's more cosmopolitan.

Building It Out
What could be improved? If I could construct a creative project in the Eastern Panhandle, I would "build" a few more quaint "third places"in Martinsburg ... maybe a place with coffee and music, an arts & crafts center (like the Lillstreet Guild in Chicago), a gallery for local artists and a high-tech incubator. Plus, I'd love to see some re-gentrification of some of the historic neighborhoods in downtown Martinsburg, perhaps some downtown lofts.

Special Place - Shepherdstown
One of the gems of the Eastern Pahnandle is Shepherdstown. This spring, I had the pleasure to spend a day in this quaint historic town. Shepherdstown, founded in 1734, is a college town, home to Shepherd University, a charming liberal-arts school. The core village in Shepherdstown aligns German Street. Many of its shops, storefronts and homes date back to the 1700's. Its picturesque beauty is highlighted by the stunning "New England-esque" chapel (former courthouse) and a centuries-old library. On top of all of this historic beauty is a palpable creative vibe.

On that warm day in late Spring, I spent hours at the Sweets Shop on German Street, working (on a free local WiFi network), sipping coffee, snacking and soaking up the creative vibe. Afterward, I browsed the village, visiting a couple art galleries, bookstores and the library. The combination of the foot traffic, college students, beauty, history and charm inspired me. In the true essence of a Creative Community "Third Place," I could have stayed there a very long time. It compelled me, and it draws me back. (By the way, Berkeley Springs is a real gem of a creative place, too, with a thriving art scene and Jeane Mozier's creative leadership.)

I still love my home region, the Eastern Panhandle. My friend and colleague, Sandy Sponaugle of Platinum PR, has the joy and privilege of living and working there. Her office is but a few steps around the corner from the aforementioned Sweets Shop and just across from that wonderful old library. I look forward to reading her perspective on the creative aspects of the Eastern Panhandle. Finally, thanks to Jason Keeling for organizing and shaping this blogger carnival in support of CreateWV and to Jeff James for his tireless, inclusive and skillful leadership of the Creative Communities Team and the CreateWV Conference.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Creative Blast Hits Tomorrow

We're working with a dozen other marketing geniuses and social media mavens on one of the coolest, most exciting projects that I've ever done. Check back tomorrow. Don't miss it!


P.S. - Yes, the image at left is a clue.
There may be more clues.
And even more clues, still.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Welcome, Lauren!

There's a new Mapleonian in town. She's a talented young graphic artist with agency design experience and a BFA from Appalachian State University. Meet Lauren Boder.

Lauren joined our team at the beginning of September and is already contributing with crisp, creative designs that help our clients achieve results. She has not yet debuted on the Maple Web site ... but that's coming soon. Welcome aboard, Lauren!

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Question from the Audience - Attracting Media Coverage

From a recent speaking engagement, I received the following question from a participant:

"How do you get media to respond to press releases?"

Great question, indeed.

Right up front, let's all understand that it's not about the press release. So many folks think that the key to news coverage is having a properly formatted press release ... and blasting it out to a staggeringly large contact list. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

First, you have to have news. Or you have to know how to package, or position, what you have to make it newsworthy. Once you've reached this point, it doesn't matter if your press release follows AP Stylebook or is scribbled on a cocktail napkin.

Is it unique?
Is it high impact?
Does it relate to world events?
Does it have relevance to an upcoming season or news cycle?
Does it relate to something that a particular station or reporter has been covering/featuring?

If you can answer "Yes" to one or more of the above, you truly have a compelling news item. Congratulations! Your job is going to be pretty easy. You may even be able to get multiple rounds of coverage. Actually, if you have real news (i.e., hard news), you won't need a press release, since the media will be calling you once the word gets out to one or two outlets ... faster than you can send out press releases.

The second crucial element to success in earned media coverage is relationship. This begins with cultivating relationships with reporters, editors, publishers and bloggers. It won't suffice to keep a transactional view of reporters. In fact, here at Maple, we treat reporters like clients. We get to know them, send them goodies and take them out for lunch or coffee. [Previous gems of wisdom on this topic here and here]

You have to know where to offer your news opportunity. So, to whom should you take your news pitch? Maybe you are working on a tougher pitch, where it's not front-page level hard news. Maybe it is a worthy and promising feature story with a nice human impact value. Which reporter might take a look at your pitch? Do you have a personal relationship with that person. If so, that can make all the difference. Let's face it, reporters are busy... way busy. If they are evaluating a story, and they have to face a significant learning curve to understand the background and relevance, it's extra work for them. If you have the relationship, you will have earned that extra time, that second look in the midst of a busy day. It might take a bit more coaxing--and perhaps a cup of coffee--but you'll get your coverage.

Marketing geniuses, that is how the earned media business works ... through brainpower, planning and relationships. Not much different than most business matters, now is it?

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The New Face of Facebook

Those of you who are members of Facebook may have noticed a big change recently. Facebook has switched to a new layout, aptly named "New Facebook," which has received a not-so-warm welcome from Facebook users.

Over the past couple of weeks, users were able to preview the new layout. If they decided they didn't like it, they could switch back to the old one, which is exactly what I had done. Today, I was less than thrilled to discover that "New Facebook is now the only Facebook," as were many of my friends judging by the dozens of status changes to "I hate the new Facebook," and the news feed alerting me that so-and-so just joined the Anti-New Facebook group. I had already overheard discussions about the new layout around Marshall's campus as well.

If there is one thing I've noticed from this, it's that people hate change (unless you're talking about the current presidential race). Facebook provides a feedback link, which I'm certain millions of users have used, but will they listen to the millions of users complaints?

It reminds me of when Facebook introduced the news feed and mini feed. Users were very upset over these features because of privacy concerns, and soon started calling it "Stalkerbook." Anti-news feed groups were formed and a lot of feedback was sent, but Facebook decided not to remove the features, claiming that everyone would soon get used to them. Guess what? People got used to them. I eventually decided the news feed made Facebook better, especially for learning about new groups and pages. The news feed helped connect me to several posted items, blogs, articles, pages and videos that I would have never seen had they been buried elsewhere.

Word on the street (or message boards) is that Facebook made the new layout the only layout to accommodate advertisers. I'm not sure if this is entirely the case, but it seems to make sense. I haven't noticed many ads since logging in today, but the ads I have seen are the same size, and still unusual. For example, the current ads on my page are for political dog clothing and the Lauren Conrad diet. The only difference in ads I've noticed is that they are now located on the right side of the page.

As of now, I'm not a fan of the new layout, primarily for convenience. I dislike the multiple tabs on profile pages, although I like the tabs on the home page. I wish I could reduce the amount of white or change the color scheme so the page didn't look like a Word document. I wish photos could be viewed on separate web pages instead of in a tab (so when clicking on a photo on page 8, clicking "back" would send you to page 8, not back to page 1). I know that with time I will get used to the new layout, but for now I might just see what Twitter is all about.

For those of you using Facebook, what do you think of the new layout? What changes would you make? I’m curious to see what others think!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Way We Leave

I quit my dry cleaner this month. Bolted ... dropped the deuce. Peace out.

Quietly, without drama or fanfare, I switched from Drycleaner P to Drycleaner G. I never told the folks at P that I was leaving. I seriously doubt if they have noticed. Once I had made the switch, I told three friends about my experience.

Why did I leave? And more importantly, why should you care? My behavior as a consumer was wholly typical and representative ... it's a mini case study. I left my drycleaner for the same reasons--and in the same manner--that all customer leave all service businesses.

Reason #1 - Quality.
Drycleaner P stopped being careful with my clothing. I don't have time to replace buttons, and I don't like to spend more money to buy new pants that have been nuked at 1000 deg Kelvin with old press pads. So, their quality of service plummeted.

Reason #2 - Service Personnel.
At Drycleaner P, the long-time service rep (the clerk who greets you and takes care of your pick-ups and drop-offs was friendly, polite and helpful. The person who was hired to replace her was zombie-like in her glazed over, cold, distant manner. It comes down to the leadership (in this case the owners). I want--and I deserve--friendly service from nice people. (Hey- this is West Virginia, after all.)

Most customers, when they leave ... when they decide to quit you ... do not leave in a bombastic, confrontational way. In fact, most never even tell you that they are about to leave. They just leave. And it's because of the fact that 96% of humans prefer to avoid conflict or confrontation. We simply do not like to address the unpleasant stuff, like complaining about something. Ironically, they won't tell you that they are leaving, but they will tell others (4 to 5 people on average) why they left.

What does this mean for you and your business?

From a basic business perspective, it provides a very meaningful reminder that you can never quit striving to provide the best service at a very high quality level. It is an absolute must to have the best, most capable, friendly people interacting with your customers.

Where does marketing fit in this?

Now from a marketing perspective, this story demonstrates that you have to ask your customers if they are satisfied. They will not initiate such conversations. Ask them: "How are we doing?" "What could we do better?" "Have we done anything to irritate you or anything that has inconvenienced you lately?" Marketing geniuses understand that marketing is a conversation and also a feedback loop. They know that marketing serves two masters: 1- finding customers and 2- keeping them happy.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Zappos Truly Engaged with Customers

Twitter can be kind of fun. I've been on it for about a year. My lovely wife is now on it, too. And so is her sister. While we were poolside at the beach this Labor Day weekend, we were doing a bit of Twittering. One of our observations was that--now this year--the Crocs style of shoe appeared to be quite out of style. So I put out the following Tweet:
Observation from the beach::: Crocs are soooo 2006. What's the hot new beachy
footwear? @
zappos? from txt

Notice the @zappos. I had a hunch that the world's leading shoe merchant might have something to say about the question.

Not more than 48 hours later, I got a reply. Not just any reply--but a reply from the CEO of Zappos. Here was his response:

i don't know if there are any new beach footwear brands this season! at
least none that i personally know of... CEO -Tony / zappos
follow me at
reply on the web at

That, my friends, is one incredible example of managing your online presence and finding ways to connect with customers. Kudos to Tony and the other marketing geniuses at Zappos. We'll have more great marketing examples--of customer engagement, of creating loyalty, of inspiring raving fans--from Zappos to share in the days ahead.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Tee It Up

No, I'm not going to play golf. And this has zero to do with marketing. But I am headed out to watch my Dad compete in the W.Va. Senior Open golf championship, here at Edgewood Country Club in Charleston. What a special treat! I can remember so many times, as a young man, that Dad was there to cheer me on. So now it's nice to be able to reverse those roles and return the favor. It is important to treasure and embrace life's simple blessings. This one is not to be missed!

Between vacation and the golf tourney, I have not posted many blog commentaries lately. Just wanted to give you all a heads-up. We'll be back strong in the days ahead ... many good posts percolating.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More Important than "the Six Most Important Words in Marketing?"

As many of you know, I am insanely, way-overboard, sounding-like-a-broken-record, in love with the following six word phrase: "How did you hear about us?" (More about this fundamental marketing tactic .) For years I've refered to that as the six most important words in marketing.

Now, today there's something more important than that one essential markeitng question. Oh really?

So says Fred Reichheld and practitioners of a new theory called Net Promoter. They claim there is "one question that can determine your business' future."

That's quite the marketing smack talk! Yet they back it up with research, a book, training workshops and a Web site. I was curious, so I investigated.

Net Promoter - here's the deal:

1- Ask all your customers: "How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?" Present the recipient with a 1-10 rating scale for responding to the question.

2- Promoters are those who are highly likely to recommend you. Count those who fall into this range, (8-10 scoring range, for example). Promoters are those engaged, empowered, loyal customers who'll go out of their way to spread the good word about your company and your products.

3- Detractors are those who are are least likely to recommend you. Count those who fall into this category (perhaps 1-3 scoring range). Detractors are detrimental. They are dissatisfied, looking for new options (other than you) and are spreading bad news about your company and your products.

4- Your Net Promoter Score = (% of Promoters) minus (% of Detractors)

That's it--simple and straightforward, the Net Promoter Score system. If your business is taking care of your customers, your NPS will be high; conversely if your business has crummy service, poor quality and bad marketing, then your NPS will be low. In fact, if you have a negative NPS, the theory says that you are on your way out of business.

Measure your Net Promoter Score often. Track the results over time. While the first survey will have only anecdotal value, the change in score over time (the longitudinal data) will be truly revealing. Is your NPS increasing or decreasing? Why?

Consider the marketing power of a new paradigm ... 10 important words!

1- On the front end ask: "How did you hear about us?" Then, invest more in what's working and do more of what's working.

2- On the back side, following a sale, ask: "Would you recommend us?" Then, work like crazy, servicing customers and understanding their desires, to earn more Promoters and to prevent Detractors from arising.

Actually, once you've looked at it, these two go together quite naturally. A one-two punch, consisting of the 10 most important words in marketing. Now, let's put it all into action and go earn some Promoters!

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