Archives for posts with tag: Marketing
Jobs and Wozniak in 1975

I wish I still had my hair...

Steve Jobs used to be just some nerdy guy with funky hair.

Mark Zuckerberg? Same.

Same with Jim Sinegal (Costco), and Craig Newmark (Craigslist), and Pierre Omidyar (eBay) and so on. They all used to be just plain, regular, you-and-me-type folk, with regular lives, in regular homes, with regular shoes, and regular problems.

Then one day, after a lot of hard work, they got big.

The thing about becoming big, and one of the most important aspects of keeping yourself there, is humility. What I mean is, knowing that in your not-so-distant past, you were NOT big and didn’t sit atop a pedestal looking down upon the general populace.

It is in respect to this level of humility and grace that I comment on Mitch Joel, President of Twist Image, marketing guru, social media visionary and all-around nice guy.

I was thinking about hosting some podcasts on my company’s website and was looking to get some direction on software, hardware, pitfalls, process, etcetera, so naturally I reached out to someone who podcasts regularly and whose podcast and blogs I subscribe to: Mitch’s Six Pixels of Separation.

I shot him an email in response to one of his blog posts and much to my surprise and amazement he not only replied to my email, but did so within 24 hours and provided a link to a “How To” posting on how he does what he does.

Mitch is a much sought after public speaker, the author of a highly respected book on social media marketing, president of a very successful (and busy) marketing company, and he took the time to reply to an email from someone he doesn’t know asking for help on how he does what he does.

That’s like getting batting tips from Mark McGuire, or financial advice from Warren Buffet. The fact that Mitch took the time to respond with contextually accurate and helpful advice to what I can only imagine would have been one of hundreds, if not thousands, of emails from a total stranger working for a company that isn’t even a blip on his radar is completely flattering and professionally astounding.

Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel

Smart guy. Smart book.

That says a lot about Mitch Joel.

I would highly recommend subscribing to his podcasts, his blog and most importantly, buying his book (I read it,really enjoyed it and am successfully putting into practice some of the concepts described therein).

Thanks again, Mitch.

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Those of you who work in media buying, pay attention – this post might be about you.

Have you seen Jamie Oliver’s new show “Food Revolution” yet?

It’s an interesting concept: teach people how to NOT kill themselves – and their offspring – with crappy, frozen, convenient food, and instead, teach them how to start eating right. Novel idea (shaking my head).

On his website, Jamie has a pdf that speaks to a lot of issues with the food that is being served to kids in school on a daily basis, and the show really highlights how incredibly stubborn people can be when it comes to implementing change.

Dipping sauce? Oh, yeah. Big fan.

In one episode he debunks the theory that buying prepared, frozen food is faster and cheaper than making the same meal fresh. He took a box of frozen chicken strips for $8 and then bought fresh chicken and breading for under $5, made it from scratch and to the table in less time than it took to cook the frozen ones.

Here’s the real kicker: he used 6 ingredients. On the box of frozen ones it lists more than 10. He goes on to talk about preservatives (sodium phosphate) and additives (monosodium glutamate) and all the other chemicals that go into frozen food to keep it from rotting.

The underlying theme for the show is this: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, SO DON’T EAT SHIT.

So, I’m watching this thinking that I’m going to have to take a look at the sides of the boxes of shit in my freezer, when they break for commercial and I see an ad for pre-cut, pre-washed, ready to boil chunks of potato to help us busy-folk make mashed faster – fresh from your grocer’s freezer.

Nice work on THAT media buy, dipshit. Oh, I get the demographic workup and the target base, but how about WATCHING the program to see if your product fits the theme? Why not look at the synopsis for the program before just buying ad space based on specialty channel viewer profiles? Jamie Oliver just finished telling you how prepared food is bad for you and making it yourself is just as easy… but no, by all means, tell me more of your fantastic, time saving, pre-washed/cut/cubed/sodium-phosphate-enriched, frozen-in-a-bag staple.

Smrt.

PS – here’s a link to a wikid chicken strip recipe from Black Health Now.

Sweet n Salty Breakfast Goodness

The late-for-work breakfast of champion dads everywhere.

Like most of you, I typically don’t have time for breakfast Mon-Fri – hit snooze twice, took longer to wash with that sliver of soap, kids not cooperating, rush to get them to school – so I tend to carry myself through to lunch on coffee and, if I remember to grab one, a Sweet ‘n Salty bar.

Come the weekend, I’m all about breakfast. Brew a pot of joe and weigh out what I’m going to tuck in to: bacon and eggs, pancakes, or my private guilty pleasure, a big bowl of Cap’n Crunch. Damn I love that stuff! My wife doesn’t like it when I come home from shopping with a box because she doesn’t want the kids eating the sugary junk, but if I see it on sale (or even if it’s not), I can’t help but pick me up some.

Here’s the thing: Cap’n Crunch tears the crap out of my mouth each and every time I eat it. And bacon? Bacon just hurts. Pancakes are painless but I almost always burn myself on the pan somehow… But despite all of that, I keep coming back for more Cap’n. And why? It actually hurts to eat it. The roof of my mouth, the gumline behind my bottom front teeth, the inevitable bitten cheek, it all adds up to pure unadulterated discomfort for the rest of the day, and yet I still love it.

Gotta love the Cap'n!

Why?

Nostalgia? Not really.

Because I get some kick-ass prizes in every box? Not a one.

Those ingenious mazes and puzzles printed on the back? Um…

It’s just that good? Well, yeah! I guess…

My point is that even though there are hundreds of other cereal choices of equal and greater sugar content, I would gladly pass them over (on sale or not) to grab a box of Cap’s chunks of chewy glass. Does that qualify as brand loyalty? It does in my books. And if anyone were to ask me, “What’s your favourite cereal that you would sacrifice all other cereals to have?”, I would sardonically reply with more than just a vote for the blue-suited skipper, but would highly recommend it to said inquisitor (and even footnote the endorsement with the caveat regarding the oral lacerations to come).

Would your customers do that for you? What would you have to give them to get that kind of sponsorship? What about you? What will you suffer through even though an alternative exists?

If you’re like me, grab a bowl of those crunchy, stick-in-your-teeth, scrape-the-shit-out-of-your-mouth, corn-based barrel-bites of awesome and skip on the hot sauce and lemonade for the day.

I was just in Charlotte, NC for an extended long weekend that encompassed Black Friday and three thoughts stuck with me for the duration of my trip:

  1. Americans really know how to put on a sale.
  2. How does the U.S. stay in business?
  3. I’m getting fleeced by retailers at home.

I live just outside of Toronto and have a couple friends/co-workers that live in the states who continually comment on how expensive things are here. Living here you don’t notice because it’s the norm, but now I couldn’t agree more, especially after spending a stupid amount of time with my mouth wide open in the wine & beer section of a grocery store in Charlotte.

I cannot for the life of me understand why a bottle of Crown Royal, a CANADIAN rye whiskey, costs twice as much here as it does in the States. And how the hell can the Canadian government justify charging $36 for a 24 of Alexander Keiths (again, made in Canada), when 40 minutes from my house, in Buffalo, it’s $23.99 – AND IT’S AN IMPORT!? So let’s turn the tables – a case of Sam Adams Boston Lager in Buffalo runs about the same as Keiths $24, but here in Ontario where it is listed as an IMPORT, it’s $45. Cripes!

Nike Structure Triax

I'm making a run for the border

To the point of how can America stay in business, I am a runner and need new shoes. I went to my local Running Room and tried on a pair of $150 (pre tax) Nikes. Nice but pricey. I walked out of Dick’s Sporting Goods in Charlotte on Black Friday with the exact same pair of shoes for $48.69.

Black Friday or not, the regular price for the shoes was more than $70 less, add a $20 sale tag, plus a coupon for the weekend (not even tied into Black Friday), and I got me a new set of kicks for a steal. WTF?!

What kind of mark-up is that? What sort of import tariffs and taxes are Canadian retailers forced to pay in order to carry similar items in their stores? More to the point, why the hell is everything in the States so much cheaper? Volume discounts for retailers is one thing, but what if it’s a cross-border company that buys en masse to stock their shelves in both countries (Chapters, Best Buy, etc)?

Buying shoes (or any number of other items, for that matter) online just isn’t an option for me without first having tried the shoes (item) on – the whole “box of chocolates” thing – so shopping at the brick and mortar is a necessary first step…

I also wear glasses (yippee) and recently had a visit with a local optician, looked through their frames and was quoted $500+ for a new pair. Go online, the same pair is $210, lenses, coatings and shipping included. This scenario makes sense! The online store doesn’t have to worry about the brick and mortar overhead, the human capital costs, etc. But these exceptions don’t apply when you compare apples to apples, or storefront to storefront.

This is an issue we are facing at my current employer where we also sell to both Canadian and American clients (B2B) and are now revisiting our pricing and packaging strategies to target a different niche in our market. We don’t want to get burned by offering one person a better price than another because we know for a fact that someone somewhere will share this information to their peers and we’ll be up the creek.

But at the same time in order to appeal to this niche we need to take a different price/pkg approach… and this niche is on both sides of the border but is linked to the rest of our clientelle via word of mouth and industry contact. Sonofagun – so do we offer our product to one group at a lower rate or in a different package/configuration than the other just to tap this market niche, full well knowing that the new package is probably all the original purchaser wanted in the first place but wasn’t an option at the time of sale? How do we handle the potential flood of existing customers who will then want the base package because they feel it would save them money in the short term even though the product they have is functionally superior to the new package? Guess we’ll see soon enough…

For now, I don’t think I’m going to be buying anything soon on Canadian soil – sorry folks, but that’s the way it is. I just hope none of the Xmas gifts I’m going to pick up on Military Rd in Buffalo will need to be returned… Better idea, give a goat!

Either marketers are getting smarter or people are getting dumber.

I vote for the latter (as dually self-deprecating as that sounds), and one reason is all the bullshit surrounding hybrid and fully electric cars.

Hybrid cars are pricey and nobody is 100% sold on the financial overage vs. environmental evangelism. So what do the auto-makers work on? Electric vehicles, like the Chevy Volt.

The Chevy Volt

Where do you think electricity comes from, numb nuts?

Sure, it boasts ZERO emissions from it’s electric engine that you charge by simply plugging it into any regular socket in your wall. Great! No more lining up to pump liquid gold into the tank! But wait a minute…  it still has a small gasoline engine inside that kicks in to generate electricity when the battery is low to keep the thing rolling… Huh? So, I still need to feed this “fully electric car” with gas from a pump?

WTF?!

To get around this apparent contradiction, GM says that the gas-powered engine never actually propels the vehicle, but that it just generates power for the battery.

Ooooh! I see. Well, shit, that was close! I thought for sure you had pulled one over on me there, GM! I mean, I bought this car so as to alleviate my dependence on carbon-producing fossil fuels… and then you tell me it still needs gas, even though it’s electric… hang on (and here’s where the people-are-dumber part comes in)…

Where does the power that goes into the battery (streaming out of my wall) come from?

Oh, that’s right, FOSSIL FUELS.

So where’s the freaking environmental savings there? What’s worse:

  • emissions from burning gasoline,
  • or emissions from burning coal and oil to produce electricity?

The Volt marketing message reads: Charge the battery, change the world. Honestly, people, is this what we’re swallowing now? I’m not blaming the marketers at GM – they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing: convincing the market that their product is going to solve problems and make their consumer’s lives better.

No, I blame you, the consumer for not thinking.

Lode of coal

Don't kid yourself - coal powers everything.

88% of all the coal in the United States is used to produce more than 57% of the Country’s electricity. Oil produces a further 40%.

Therefore, 97% of the electricity pumping out of your walls, and into your emission-free-electric-world-saver is produced from burning fossil fuels (unless, of course, you’re one of those lucky folks who have their whole roof covered with solar panels, each corner of your house has a wind turbine swooping away , and instead of a chest freezer in the basement you’ve got yourself a small fusion reactor).

Where the Jeff are the environmental savings there? There go all the carbon-footprint-reduction points you might have scored by upgrading your furnace and A/C for those new ones (at twice the price), and that new on-demand tankless hot water heater (that isn’t really all that great anyway, is it?), and even trading in your filament-based light bulbs for all those CFL bulbs – way to go, champ! Sure, your energy consumption may be down a few percent from last year, but try plugging in your CAR overnight and see what happens to your bills.

And isn’t THAT where the emphasis for supposed environmentally conscious consumers really lies: the dollar saving?

Be honest, it isn’t really about saving the environment, is it? How can it be if you’re only swapping gas for coal as an energy source? It comes down to reducing the “apparent” amount of money you spend month to month.

How do you calculate the MPG of an electric car that runs on coal- and oil-produced energy (and still needs gas anyway)?

I call bullshit.

I hope, but I won’t bet, that people will get smarter and start thinking before lining up for a “green” vehicle.

Looking for a real green vehicle? Try carpooling. Or better yet, get off your ass and engineer a transporter for Pete’s sake!

Star Trek teleportation

If people are so smart, why the hell do we still drive cars?

Donkervoort D8 Bullet

Honey, how much could we get for one of the kids?

I love cars. I just wish I had the money (and damn good reason) to get me a kick-ass little sports car, like a Donkervoort or an Exige S. You know, nothing ridiculous, just a toy.

I really love going to Car Shows too, although I haven’t made it out to the Canadian International in a couple years (kids and all, see?), but I’m going to try and make the next one coming up in February. There’s something about seeing a brand new model under those lights all shiny and quietly awaiting the open road that makes the crowds and the shitty food acceptable.

But that’s once a year. The rest of the time I get my fix by google image searches, YouTube searches, 5th Gear (hilarious show), and the boob tube just like everybody else.

I’ve often wished I was the dude throwing the M3 around the turns or the CTS rocketing down the salt-flats, but lately it seems that auto manufacturers are looking to cut costs by cutting their drivers out of the spots in favour of CG models and impossible environments… I think that sucks.

It’s like comparing Return of the Jedi to Revenge of the Sith! Oh sure, Sith had some amazing backdrops and incredible effects, but there’s no way Jedi would have anywhere near the following (even today) if Yoda wasn’t a puppet (I also believe Mark Hamill couldn’t have pulled off such a heart-wrenching performance watching his master fade away if he had to fake it – grin).

It’s not too long now that a company will figure out how to render CG so seamlessly with live footage that we won’t be able to tell the difference (I expect that Avatar may come close), but until that day, I wanna see cars on the street, cars in the dirt, cars bouncing up boulders and drifting around corners.

But when that day comes, what will befall our wonderful drivers? Will they become obsolete? Will automakers leverage technology to reduce insurance and production costs for their new lineups? What other helpless souls will be cast aside as expendable legacy system redundancies?

Will you?

Will current CRM marketing automation one day turn into pay-as-you-go automated corporate-scale marketing strategy inferred from social behavioural analytics, cloud-logged purchase history and geo/persona-targeting from web leads captured through intelligent forms that will put us “marketing types” in the unemployment lines right beside our beloved Professional-driver-closed-course buddies?

Are we too going to be replaced by code-writers and free widgets? For me, I’ve already got a background in computer animation and post production effects compositing, so I should be ok, but the rest of you are screwed.

Maybe I’ll tip a bit of my Starbucks out the window of my Donkervoort as I pass… You know, respect for my homies.

I can’t wait for Iron Man 2 to come out! Have I mentioned that I’m a comic-geek? In fact, I get stoked whenever I hear about another super hero movie coming out. And if it’s anywhere as cool as the first one, well…. ssshhhhyaww!

Being born in the early-70’s primed me to be one of those uber-excited chumps who salivates at seeing a preview for an upcoming superhero movie, courtesy of Mr. Stan Lee and his Marvel Universe (have I mentioned that I’m a big nerd?).

Billy Van as Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet

Billy Van as Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet - my fave charater from Frightenstein

In an earlier life I was an extra on a number of TV shows, movies and commercials, and also helped the agency that represented me by working in their office assisting with casting. I got to meet a couple really big stars (Adam Sandler, Tim Allen, and the immortal Billy Van [RIP]) and some then-not-so-big stars (Jim J Bullock, Monika Schnarre, & James Marsden on the set of Boogie’s Diner to name a few) and got to understand the importance of continuity – ensuring that people, props, environment and storyline are consistent from shot to shot, and from camera setup to camera setup (i.e. Same amount of milk in the glass in the right hand from cut to cut – you get the idea).

Which brings me back to Iron Man.

WARNING! If you haven’t seen the movie, well, I don’t give a shit. It was really good and you’ve had plenty of time to see it before now, so tough noogie.

Near the beginning of the movie, Tony Stark (Iron Man) is injured in a terrorist explosion and wakes to find himself a hostage in a cave with a big glowing, humming, metal thing implanted in his chest attached to a car battery. The nuclear physicist/doctor/surgeon who put it in (also a hostage), tells him that it’s an electromagnet that is preventing the shrapnel in his body from entering his heart and killing him. Ok, sure, whatever, it’s a comic book story and that’s totally acceptable in my books and besides, the glowing chest thing is part of Iron Man’s identity, part of his brand, part of his story and reason for becoming Iron Man.

Robert Downey as Tony Stark (aka Iron Man)

See? There it is! It's the only thing keeping him alive! And it was built and installed in a cave!

Trouble is that was the ONLY time in the movie that shrapnel-part was mentioned. Later on, Stark upgrades this unit a couple times and even unplugs it at one point, but in doing so the only side-effect is a slowing heart rate (or so the audio illustrated)… no excruciating pain from little bits of metal being pumped around his veins or anything! And sure, he could have probably had all the pieces removed, but again, that wasn’t covered, and if he DID get them removed, why does he still need the chest thing at all?

That’s an inconsistent message and at the end of the movie, it stuck in my mind as something I didn’t quite like. It felt like they threw in the whole shrapnel thing to explain away why he has this thing in his chest, and then forgot they said it.

Now you might be thinking that this is a bit trivial and nit-picky and one of those things that the serious comic-book-geeks would get their mom’s on the phone to rant about and get the support they need to make a posting on the Marvel Complaint Board or some damn thing, but my point is this: if the thing in his chest was put there for a reason shouldn’t that reason be consistent throughout the story?

And that got me thinking about marketing messages and advertising. Notice anything lately that has struck you as being inconsistent with a brand or incongruous with what their brand stands for or that just plumb didn’t make sense?

Take Bell’s new-ish (ok, 2007-ish, but it still sucks) advertising and branding: wtf is with the words ending in er? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not tied into ANYTHING. So what’s the point? Where’s the link? Why do I have to think about the point or the link? And where the hell is this going? As with Iron Man’s chest thing, it looks like Bell just wanted to get a new something out there and forgot to explain it to the rest of us.

Compare that to Harley Davidson. They’ve been making bikes for over 100 years and they haven’t tried to tell anybody anything different or obfuscate their core message one bit. They create loud-ass, kick-ass, time-tested, well-built bikes and their evangelical tribe is fiercely loyal. Sure, they’ve dabbled into other verticals (take Buell, for example), but even then they still maintain a consistent and familial message, voice and theme.

Harley Davidson Iron 883

"Honey! How much room do we have on the line?!"

If there’s a reason for saying what you’ve said in an ad, great, but please don’t make me try and figure it out. And if you’re going to create a string of ads leveraging this same concept, even better! Repetition works, David. Repetition works, David. But again, please make it tie in somehow to your product/brand/solution/company/industry/tag/washing instructions, anything!

Look at your website, your ads, collateral, sales tool-kits, slide decks and anything else with your logo/brand on it and ask yourself this question: Does it all go together? Is there a consistent message or theme? And if there isn’t, where and when did the train leave the tracks, and how much damage did it cause?

Memories may be short for most things, but if you’re hoping for loyalty and return business from your customers, bank on that memory extending past the last 6-12 months worth of ad messaging (or in HD’s case, decades).

The last thing a company needs is a customer coming back to them with an invoice in their hand saying, “Remember when I bought this you said…”.

***

To completely discredit this post, I plan on seeing Iron Man 2 opening night. I’ll be standing next to the guy whose shirt says: “I’m with stupid”

Long live Stan Lee.