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, June 25, 2009

Poll: Bargain Brands

I was at the store the other day picking out some items when my autopilot shut off and I became aware of the items in my basket. Crest toothpaste. Bargain mouthwash. Pantene Pro V conditioner. Bargain body lotion.

Since I used to be a faithful buyer of Scope and St. Ives, I began to wonder... How many more people are dropping name brands for store/bargain brands due to the current condition of the economy?

My curiosity pushed me to create a poll!

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Fitter West Virginia

Happy West Virginia Day! Like many, I love West Virginia. So it's tragic, to me, that West Virginia is the most overweight state in the nation. (The depressing stats are at the bottom if you need a reminder.)

Hey - I want you all to feel good, look good and live good, long lives! In support of A Better West Virginia, and in honor of West Virginia day, let's create a fitter Mountain State. It may appear a daunting challenge, but we can do it if we work smart and work together!

Obesity is a complex, multi-factor health epidemic, requiring a comprehensive solution. Right? I'm not so sure. I contend that we don't have to make this so complicated.

According to theories put forth in Malcolm Gladwell's best-seller, The Tipping Point, change begins with a spark of action or a transformative idea (often from a maven) and spreads through communities via connectors and salesmen. The change builds momentum, gaining acceptance and attracting support, until it tips (i.e., becomes prevalent, becomes the new normal). He uses such examples as Paul Revere's midnight ride, the clean-up of crime and vandalism in New York City and the return of Hush Puppy shoes. Gladwell postulates that a group of perhaps as few as 150 people aligned around a cause, and constituted with a blend of salesmen, connectors and mavens, can affect bold transformations. He cites example after of example of tipping-point victories.

How might we apply "Tipping Point" techniques to make a fitter West Virginia?

What if ... 150 (or more) of the most connected, Web savvy West Virginians began talking about fitness? [If you are reading this article, there's a good chance you might be just such a person, by the way.] Consider the potential impact of weird, new ideas like these:

  • Tweeting your workouts on Twitter (Just had a great run along the boulevard!)

  • Utilizing your Facebook status update to note your fitness activities (Heading to the gym!)

  • Used fitness topics as a conversation starter (Hey, have you been to the new zip line course in the New River Gorge?)

  • Support fitness-minded leaders - search and follow Twitter leaders who are into fitness and health; subscribe to blogs and RSS feeds from bloggers who write about exercise, nutrition and wellness. (Check out this great new yoga blog I found.)

  • Make it a personal priority--if not already--and begin advocating for fitness as a healthy lifestyle. Talking about it. Encouraging others. Inviting others to engage. (Hey, do you play tennis. Wanna play sometime this week?)
None of this requires new systems or much extra work or time, really not even any money. I'm not urging you to join a gym or even to exercise more frequently. What I am urging you to do is to commit to elevate the conversation about fitness and to main it consistently. When you work out - put it out there across your network. Keep the conversation going. Support others. Simple and easy!

Imagine the power of 150+ visible, opinion leaders focusing on fitness! Others will take notice. It's leadership by example. It's advocacy. One by one, across social networks (both real and virtual) people will begin to think: Maybe I need to get going with this fitness thing. Behavior modeling will begin and change will occur. Powerful!

I believe that once West Virginia addresses its education and obesity challenges, everything else is easily tackled and overcome. To me, these are the two "biggies" (no pun intended). I will rely on others for educational ideas and reforms; there's already some good stuff underway.

When I turned 40 three years ago, I was 40 pounds overweight. My waist was 40 inches. My cholesterol was 240, and my blood pressure was 140-something (the top number). Not a healthy picture. Since that time, I've made some huge changes in my lifestyle with exercise, fitness and supplementation. Today, those efforts have paid off, and I will be around for many more years to enjoy my wonderful family, friends and beloved Mountain State.

While that's a happy story, it's not what's most relevant to this example. During the course of my fitness transformation, I casually, almost haphazardly began communicating about my workouts and fitness lifestyle on Facebook and Twitter--not in a zealous way, just conversational and without agenda. I did this mostly to hold myself accountable and to focus on my fitness.

This is the big surprising insight: over the past two years, I have heard from more than 30 or more people that they have been inspired and motivated by my fitness blurbs and quips. That's wonderful! Such feedback has helped me to stay focused and committed. It's an upward spiral. It's synergy. A community of enriched relationships is so powerful!

Are you ready to make this tip? I hope you'll join me!

I look forward to your comments and suggestions here or on Facebook and Twitter.


Here are some background stats on obesity, culled from the report "Obesity: Facts, Figures, Guidelines" - WV DHHR, 2002.

Obese West Virginians are more likely than their healthy weight counterparts to have suffered a heart attack, been diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, and/or asthma, or been limited in their activities because of back pain.

The economic costs of obesity are tremendous. The National Institutes of Health have estimated the total cost of overweight and obesity to the U.S. economy in 1995 dollars at $99.2 billion, including 39.3 million workdays lost annually to obesity-related causes.

The obesity prevalence in West Virginia has been consistently higher than that in the United States as a whole. In 1990, the West Virginia rate of adult obesity was 15.0%,
compared with a U.S. rate of 11.6%. By 2000, the state rate was 23.2%, compared
with 20.1% nationally. The obesity rate has increased in virtually all of West
Virginia’s 55 counties over the past decade.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

CREO and the Copier Incident

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Brand Identity for the Sci-Fi Channel

On July 7th, NBC Universal will be rolling out a new brand identity for its cable television property, the Sci-Fi Channel. The new look is shown at left.

Home to such popular shows as Ghost Hunters, Primeval, Moonlight and Equilibrium, the channel has a relatively small but loyal audience. While I would love to hear from some of them to get their reactions... I'm going out on a limb and predicting that no one's going to be too fond of the new identity for the Sci-Fi brand.

First off, humans are usually fairly resistant to change. 99% of the time we'll take the old. (Thank you very much.)

Secondly, and more troubling to me, is the fact that the new logotype has no connotation of anything scientific, nothing that says science fiction. Four rather plain, very round-ish letters. In white. Blandsville.

And finally, while I'm ranting, I cannot quite come to terms with how the new brand name comes across phonetically. Does anyone hear: "Siffy" or perhaps "Sife-E?" Somewhere between the two "y's" and the lowercase "f" everything breaks down. The mini Web site that explains the new branding approach is even all jacked up.

On a positive note--and for the sake of balance--I will say that the new positioning statement is pretty good. It's an action-oriented invitation to me to imagine. I like that. With the word "Greater," they are hinting at some bigger, better things to come. That sounds good and promising, also.

Let's hope Sci-Fi, or Siffy, lives up to its promise ... and hope that the programming is better than the logo design work. Marketing geniuses and Sci-Fi brand evangelists, please tell us (post a comment) if your feelings are contrary.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Best of Marketing Genius: Repairing a Damaged Reputation

Repairing a Damaged Reputation
[first published here April 2008]

Rehabilitating a damaged public image. This is one of the most popular topics that I am asked to address. From time to time, whenever controversy arises (and that seems to be more frequently, doesn't it!) the question is presented: how does one rehabilitate or repair a damaged image? How can someone rebuild his or her reputation?

It takes time to rehabilitate one's image: such a matter does not lend itself to a quick fix. Many people hope that if they say the right thing at the critical moment all will be made good. That's just not how the world works.

We, as human beings, form perceptions about other humans over time. This is the basis of reputation. If a person has made a major blunder, it equates to a big, negative hit against his or her reputation. This cannot be overcome with one press conference. No, the perfect statement at the perfect time will not wipe the slate clean. Instead, those in the audience will watch and observe, most likely in a cautious manner at first. Some will be inclined to forgive; others may become embittered permanently toward the person who made the major mistake. Over time, most people in the audience will adjust their assessments of the person in question.

So if the perfect words will not do the trick, what can rebuild a tarnished reputation? One word: actions.

As we've all heard, actions speak louder than words. Once a person has made the gargantuan gaffe, the best thing he or she can do is to consistently do good and do right. According to the laws of communication theory, 93% of the information that human beings process and learn from is related to non-verbal signals or cues. By contrast, words account for only 7% of that which we process and upon which we form perceptions. With this fact in mind, it is easy to see why actions are so much more important than words in regard to mending one's reputation.

With the clear understanding that (1) rehabilitating a reputation takes time and that (2) actions speak louder than words, let's shift the focus toward the public relations strategy. What are the right tactics to use in a situation where a person has made a career-threatening mistake?

I would advise my clients and anyone else to adhere to the following ABC principles:

A - Apologize
Admit your mistake and ask for forgiveness. Demonstrate that you have a contrite heart. This is done by speaking in a humble manner and expressing remorse.

B - Be genuine
Show some emotion. No one will forgive an over-rehearsed, stiff emotionless robot. Speak from the heart and use natural, appropriate hand gestures and other non-verbals. Obviously, we don't want to see a blubbering basket case, but genuineness and emotion can be very helpful.

C - Compassion
Show compassion. The root of the word "passion" is "suffer." To show compassion is to demonstrate that you are suffering with the person (or parties) who were affected. The audience will identify with compassion and respond favorably to it. Perhaps no one understood this better than Bill Clinton who repeatedly emphasized: "I feel your pain."

Remember that non-verbal communication is crucial. People in the audience are watching, more than listening. Therefore, the speaker's emphasis should be placed upon apologizing, being genuine and demonstrating compassion. It may be acceptable to speak briefly about one's past track record (which may have been glowing and heroic) but only in the context of remarks about future plans to atone for this incident. Specifically, the speaker may want to briefly discuss specific plans about rehabilitating himself, through counseling, clergy, medical care, training or community service, to demonstrate that he is focused on atoning for his actions and preventing future blunders.

All in all, the majority of the positive impact, or image rehabilitation, will come in the weeks and months that follow the initial episode. Sorry ... there simply is no quick fix.

Accordingly, we would work with our client to establish an ambitious, pro-active outreach plan to lead them through this subsequent phase. Ultimately, the key to successfully rehabilitating a reputation is consistently repeating good deeds, rightful and helpful acts, over an extended period, in a manner that reestablishes trust.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Best of Marketing Genius: The Five Benefits

The Five Benefits
[first published here, July 2005]

In marketing we are constantly advising our clients to promote the benefits of their product or service, instead of features or functions.

"This new device has 65 Terabytes of bandwidth and a 125 gigahertz processor."

So what!

You have to tell me what that will mean to me.

Anyone attempting to promote or sell anything must drill down with his thinking until he discerns the real benefits.

What's the benefit, then? In this case I can think of two: make more money and have more time to spend with family. The device works faster so you will get work done more quickly, enabling you to shave time off your work day to devote to family. Or, you can do more work in a given time period and (ostensibly) make more money.

A PR consultant from New York City taught me that there are really only five benefits that anyone can mention. According to him, it does not matter what the product is or what industry one inhabits, we have to present our case so effectively that we tell our audience within the first ten seconds which of the five possible benefits we are offering.

There are five, period. F-I-V-E.

Are you ready for them?

Here goes:
1. Make me wealthy
2. Improve my appearance
3. Help me to be more well-liked by my family or friends
4. Make me live longer
5. Get me laid more often

Money, looks, popularity, health and sex. That's it.

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