Seven Ways to Reinvent Yourself

OK, we’re all about 1/12th of the way through 2010 and most of our good-natured resolutions for self improvement have been broken.

Fortunately, here comes a welcome, timely motivational kick in the pants from one of my marketing mentors Seth Godin that highlights seven key levers you can use to reinvent yourself such as: Connect, Be generous, Make art , Acknowledge the lizard (helped me), Ship, Fail, Learn.

Click here to read Seth Godin’s magnificent manifesto Brainwashed!

Thanks for shipping Seth!


iWant, iNeed, iGotta

Pancakes in a can? I’m all in!

What a simple brand promise – so easy and clear to understand.

Think Reddi-Whip aerosol can, but think Pancakes – maybe think both at the same time (hint – writing this during dinnertime – and, I’m a little hungry)!

Anyway, I plan to try NEW Batter Blaster this weekend, after eating up it’s marvelous marketing and unique story for some time now. You can learn a ton about how to effectively create and launch a new product by studying the good folks at Batter Blaster. For example, here are just a few reasons why they’re achieving amazing success:

  1. They created a truly new product that solves a need. Make pancakes easy and quick to make with little waste and mess.  Everyone knows that it’s a pain to make pancakes for one or two people – especially in the morning if you work.  Most people blow off breakfast – the most important meal of the day – because of a lack of time – so, Batter Blaster to the rescue! Plus, BB cakes must taste pretty good to be able to quickly earn nearly $20 million in 2009 sales when it just got up and running in 2005. Certainly it might not be the best tasting pancake you ever had – taste is a subjective attribute – but balanced on the whole against speed and convenience, it must taste OK and certainly worth a try.
  2. Clear Positioning – Easy, Quick, Better…Fun. Shake, point and shoot! It’s so easy to talk about it – so easy to explain. People get the core value proposition spot on and it’s easy to spread the buzz. Everything about Batter Blaster is easy – their web site, lists recipes, places to find productproduct information and it’s a cinch to find contact information too. And, it’s fun – love the 50’s-style jingle when you hit the home page – “Make a better breakfast faster, Batter Blaster! It’s a spot on benefit rich positioning statement that’s easy to remember.
  3. Show and Tell and Proof of Performance. Great use of demos, testimonials too – love the Guinness Record Book move – brilliant!
  4. Great use of Public Relations and Social Media – How about 9,000 Facebook fans of Pancakes-in-a-Can! Let’s face it though – it’s a much easier to get coverage and viral buzz when you deliver on your promise!

In this age of iPod, iPhone and now iPad…iWant, INeed, iGotta have me some iPancakes from Batter Blaster because I’m thinking I’m going to love them! At least one time!


A Butt Face Marketing Lesson

I just love this lawsuit kicked off by The North Face – an premium preppy outdoor apparel and gear company – vs. The South Butt – a skunk works operation run by a college kid.

The North Face giant is suing the kid – Jimmy Winkelmann, a University of Missouri college student for trademark infringement, dilution and unfair competition.

The logos and clothing are a bit similar. And, The North Face’s lofty slogan, “Never Stop Exploring” is positioned against the far less lofty and comfortable mission of The South Butt’s which is, “Never Stop Relaxing.”

For The North Face to win, they have to prove that the two brands are confusingly similar. They’ll lose…I’d bet on it. There’s no doubt that the two companies are different.  I think the average person knows the difference between a face and a butt. Don’t you?

In the meantime, The South Butt is smoking hot and taking advantage of being bullied – their Web site has earned nearly 20 million Google hits.  The South Butt smartly recognized that everyone loves the underdog so they’re making the case well known. And they’ve launched a cool The South Butt Challenge Facebook App to boot!

Jimmy’s going to ride this all the way to the bank and I’ll also bet that he graduates from Mizzou with no school loans!

What’s the marketing lesson? Well, it’s an old and simple one.

The North Face should have left sleeping dogs lie and left Jimmy alone.  They’re flaming his fire and contributing to his success by airing their grievance.

This is a classic case of market share leaders making the stupid mistake of identifying and attacking competitors no matter how big or small.  They have nothing to gain and more to lose.

Class dismissed.


The Kids Are Alright Part II

In an earlier post, I reported that it was great to see the Gen Y kids driving the tremendous outpouring of financial support for Haiti relief via texting.

I’m happy to report that the American Red Cross “Text ‘Haiti’ to 90999” campaign has raised $24 million to date. See the DMNews story here.

Think about this campaign for a moment. It has achieved some amazing accomplishments – in a short period of time – since this devastating earthquake hit Haiti just last week on January 12th:

  • $24 million has been raised via $10 individual donations to help the Haitian people – 1/5th of the amount the American Red Cross has raised to date – breaking all records by a huge  margin.  Reference note: After Hurricane Katrina – a mere 4.5 years ago – the ARC only received $120,000 via texting – and Katrina occurred on American soil!
  • The ARC has built a valuable mobile text database for future marketing communications and financial appeal efforts
  • The ARC’s core donor base skews older and texting gave the Gen Y folks an easy, quick and convenient channel to offer their support (marketing lesson – treat different people differently)
  • The campaign execution of  the ARC and its mobile firm partner mGive was flawless – amazing too – considering the fact that they started to work on the texting campaign the evening of the earthquake
  • The viral goodwill spread of the “Text ‘HAITI’ to 90999” campaign in Social Media channels such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter (100K tweets/retweets)

I’m far from being in the Gen Y segment, but I did text a donation to the ARC and will tell you that it was easy for me to participate. As important, I felt comfortable donating because of the supportive and reinforcing messages I saw on TV news and various high profile broadcasts such as the NFL playoffs and the Golden Globes.

Also, after texting the shortcode “HAITI” to 90999, I was asked me to respond “yes” to confirm my donation and then I received a nice comforting thank you too – nice touch.

This overwhelmingly positive experience led me to spread the ARC’s good word and to feel more comfortable using this channel in the future.

Strong brand promise, ease, convenience, simple message and trust are the hallmarks of success for the ARC’s texting campaign and they could be put to good use for your brand’s future success too.

Photo by CollectiveGood.


Stop Busting People’s Buttons

About 10 years ago, I made a huge change in a long time relationship. After about a 15 year relationship, I divorced my dry cleaner because they wouldn’t stop busting my buttons!

Time and time again, when I’d button my shirt, the buttons – especially on the collar and sleeves – would crumble in my hands and seemingly disappear into thin air.

Now, to be fair, my old dry cleaner (and a few others I tried) would replace my buttons free of charge, but how does that help when you’re on the road or running late for a meeting?  More often than not when traveling, I wouldn’t even have buttons on my sleeves or collar!

Stupid me. I put up with poor service because of habit. I, like so many of you simply avoided change.

Well, I’ve been married to Sam’s Cleaners & Tailoring  (412.343-4933 – 1604 Cochran Road, Pittsburgh) – yes married…I’m that loyal –  for about 10 years! I’d bet that Sam busts people’s buttons too, but you’d never know it. They carefully inspect their work before returning their customer’s clothes.

Plus, they’re nicer and they even know my name!

I spent thousands of dollars over the years with my old dry cleaner and the interesting thing is that they never contacted my once to find out why I stopped going to them. They never contacted me despite the amount of my business and despite the fact that they have all of my contact information! Amazing!

The other amazing thing is that I’ve never received a discount at Sam’s and I’ve told at least 50 people how great they are and never received a commission. And, I’ll continue to spread positive word of mouth without expecting anything back from Sam’s. No bother.

A couple questions.

How many brands do you spread positive WOM for that are like Sam’s?

How many of you are busting your customer’s buttons and know it or don’t know it?

For those of you who have a marketing plan that you follow, do you have a retention and win-back plan?

Now can Sam do a better job marketing?  Sure, we call can. But, when you deliver flawlessly on the core basic brand promise of your business in a nice and friendly fashion, in the majority of businesses you’re already far ahead of the game.

Take Sam’s lesson to heart and stop busting your customer’s buttons.

P.S.: Always remember if you want people to buzz about you, do something buzzworthy!

Photo by Photofigg.


Marketing Lessons of Dr. King

Today is a special day of remembrance for me because I’ve admired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ever since I was a young boy.

King’s life’s work was to create a formidable movement of change and progress on the issue of civil rights in America – which he most certainly accomplished. In fact, his legacy has expanded to encompass not only the advancement of civil rights, but human rights throughout the world.

Dr. King and others in the Civil Rights Movement taught me a lot about living my Christian faith and American patriotism out loud, and both taught me lessons about marketing a meaningful cause.

First and foremost, their brand message was true, right and good – they operated from a solid foundation of truth and righteousness.

From having a spot-on brand message – equal rights – the Civil Rights movement created support (buy-in) of their cause with personal, touching, motivating and powerful storytelling imagery such as:

  • Segregation signs at water fountains, rest rooms, restaurants and hotels
  • Elderly women in their Sunday best being turned back from voting
  • Rosa Parks sitting in front of a white man on a bus and then being fingerprinted
  • White firemen turning high pressure water hoses on the old and young alike
  • White policemen leading German Shepherd attack dogs through black crowds
  • Innocent black children being escorted by soldiers on their way to school
  • Unarmed, peaceful marchers getting viciously beaten by armed police
  • Disgusting Ku Klux Klan marches, and burning crosses
  • Rampant black church burnings and bombings

There are certainly more, but I’m sure you get the picture.

All of these powerful images of factual accounts and experiences combined, provided a motivating case for drastic and immediate change.

Certainly, many images were created, but more often than not these images were created and spread virally because they were true, authentic and emotional which makes for a far more reaching impact.

The positioning message was a simple one of good vs. evil.

Dr. King persuaded, motivated and modeled the movement after Gandhi’s peaceful marches and protests with dignity and discipline. These non violent marches were impactful, but as impressive…if not more so…was the way in which he communicated his brand’s message of civil and racial injustice.

Two things I’ve always remembered in marketing are:

  1. People don’t join causes…people join people with causes and
  2. People typically buy first on emotion, then justify with facts

These two marketing maxims certainly apply to the Civil Rights Movement.

Do yourself a HUGE favor and listen carefully to Dr. King’s entire, “I Have a Dream” speech. The “Dream” speech is a masterpiece and it’s amazing how quiet the audience is throughout it too.

Here is a list of 10 Communication Tips from Dr. King that I picked up from his speech (see if you can pick them up and agree with them; and see if you can discover a few more):

  1. The perfect imagery setting of speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial
  2. The use of simple, small, easy to understand common words
  3. The impact of the repetitive nature of select phrases (e.g., “now is the the time,” “we are not satisfied,” “I have a dream,” “let freedom ring,” “free at last”)
  4. The effect of name personalization (e.g., my friends, you, me, we etc.)
  5. The effect of location personalization (e.g., he lists key towns and cities where many of the members of his audience live)
  6. The clarity of his speech – perfect annunciation and diction
  7. The passionate nature of his voice – how can you motivate people if you’re not
  8. The perfect pacing and changes in speech patterns (e.g., high, low, quick, slow)
  9. The use of short phrases and sentences to drive home memorable key points
  10. The fact that he used notes sparingly because he spoke from personal experience, believed in his message and thus knew it by heart – teleprompter be damned

Much is made about President O’Bama’s communication skills, but he’s far from being the skilled orator of Dr. King. The president has the Internet, a ton of communication consultants and speechwriters and his infamous TELEPROMPTER (which he uses entirely too much as a crutch). Dr. King had none of the tools that the President has at his disposal, but created such an amazing, impressive long lasting presence.

The President and all of us can learn a great deal about tolerance, patriotism and doing the right thing from Dr. King AND we can all learn a great deal about how to be a Marketing Rock Star too!

Happy Birthday and Rest in Peace Dr. King.


The Kids Are Alright

If you think young people these days are inconsiderate, selfish, concerned with only themselves and wear their “pants on the ground“…think again.

Soon after the devastating Haiti earthquake hit, @RedCross tweeted: “You can text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts in #haiti.”

Kudos to the Red Cross marketing folks for being prepared (excellent online disaster newsroom) and recognizing the fundraising opportunity available to them in this terrible time of crisis.

And, much more kudos to the kids that drove this “texting bus” because they’re the ones credited with leading this Red Cross effort which has raised over $10 million for the cause since this record breaking mobile fundraiser was launched last Tuesday.

This is a great example of using technology to build rather than destroy.

Watch text marketing grow from this effort and put in on your list of things to test for your business too!

P.S.: Here is a list of 8 ways you can help Haiti by texting:

  1. Text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross
  2. Text HAITI to 25383 to donate $5 to International Rescue Committee
  3. Text HAITI to 45678 to donate $5 to the Salvation Army in Canada
  4. Text HAITI to 20222 to donate $10 through the Clinton Foundation
  5. Text HAITI to 864833 to donate $5 to The United Way
  6. Text CERF to 90999 to donate $5 to The United Nations Foundation
  7. Text DISASTER to 90999 to donate $10 to Compassion International
  8. Text RELIEF to 30644 (to connect with Catholic Relief Services who will instruct you how to donate money with your credit card)

…the 9th way to help is to pray.


All Football Field Goals Aren’t Worth 3 Points

Did you ever wonder why all football field goals are worth three points or all touchdowns are worth six points? I have…and the more I think about it, the more outdated the tradition seems to me, and changing the values would make the game more exciting.

Aren’t 50 yard field goals tougher to make than 20 yarders? Certainly they are, so why aren’t their values different?

In gymnastics and other sports, the degree of difficulty is rewarded so why not football.

Here’s a thought…how about…

  • Making all field goals between the goal line and 10 yard line worth 1 point
  • 11-20 yard line = 2 points
  • 21 – 30  = 3 points (probably today’s average kick)
  • 31 – 40 = 4 points
  • 41 – 50 – 5 points
  • 51+ = 6 points (double the average)

Wouldn’t this single idea create cool new strategies and more game excitement in the NFL, College etc.? Yes it would – it would open up the game a ton. I’m not sure about changing the value of touchdowns, because the degree of difficulty getting a touchdown in the Red Zone (20 yards in) can be tough, but why not look into it.  Why always stay with the status quo especially when the environment you exist in has changed?

The NBA finally adopted the 3-point shot in the 1979-80 season after seeing it tested over the years, so why can’t the NFL change?

Bringing this marketing idea home to you and your business, what can you take away from this discussion?

Well, for starters take a hard look at your pricing and see if the pricing of the selling of your goods and services (goals) truly reflects what their real and perceived worth is to your customer.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when reviewing your pricing policies:

  • Do you offer better terms of service than your competitors
  • Does your stuff last longer
  • Is your stuff simply better
  • Are you nicer to do business with – more trustworthy
  • Do you offer guarantees – replacements
  • Are you faster
  • Are you cleaner
  • Are you more thorough
  • Do you offer more prestige
  • Do you offer more value-added services
  • Is it harder to do what you do
  • Is your error rate smaller
  • Does the quality you deliver reflected in the time and care you take to deliver
  • Do your ideas transform businesses into more long term profitable brands vs. short term easy to lose small gains

Certainly this list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea.  You get the picture.

In my experience, over 80% of the pricing problems I see with brands, turns out to be that they should raise their prices and clearly demonstrate their true value .

The problem most brands have (if they have a quality product) is that they do not clearly communicate and demonstrate the value they offer, so they simply resort to lowering their prices until their customer believes their effort to be of some value.

I contend that 50 yard field goals are worth a lot more that 25 yarders and should be valued accordingly – it’s certainly easy to demonstrate the value because they’re longer and harder to make!

What do you do that’s better than your competitors, but your prices are similar?

Figure out what your dramatic difference is and clearly demonstrate your value-add and win! If you don’t have a dramatic difference that you can clearly demonstrate…get one!

Photo: James Clear


Top Ten Consumer Trends for 2010

Back in June, 2009 I presented my Top Ten Consumer Trends for 2010 at Duquesne University’s 11th Annual Entrepreneur Growth Conference in Pittsburgh.

I still believe these trends are on track, but I also believe in Pittsburgh-based Heinz Chairman and CEO William Johnson’s view that the he sees a long-lasting consumer shift to thrift and must carefully balance its business strategy in response.

I’m totally tracking with him and have dialed up my recommendations to clients that they need to create more value and more transformational quality experiences for their customers.

Brands need to recognize that when the economy does return to the positive, consumers are going to be more conservative in their spending, looking for more value and more unique, quality experiences than ever before. They do not feel safe with their careers or finances now and I doubt the majority ever will again.

Lastly, one other trend that we all need to dial up, recognize, learn, test, implement etc., is the “easiness” trend which is being driven by consumer’s lack of time and resulting in technology advances especially in mobile marketing and television entertainment and its Web-based convergence.  More to come on this trend and Web 3.0 (see Jessi Hempel’s January 8th article in Fortune Magazine) advances in future posts.