The Unique Selling Proposition of Brand Jesus

I’ve been a practicing (and far from perfect) Roman Catholic and Christian all my life, and for over 25 years, I’ve been a practicing (also far from perfect) marketing professional.

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a lot of brand positioning exercises and marketing audits as well as attending a weekly bible study. As I’m preparing to enter Holy Week and Easter – my favorite time of the year – my professional and personal life is colliding in an interesting way.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ ministry and his time on earth a lot lately. And, I’ve been thinking about him as a brand too. And, when I think of him as a brand, his radical and remarkable message and unique selling proposition is clearly one of unconditional love, tolerance and forgiveness – but, love is his foundational core message. And, he demonstrated his core message of love by living it out loud through his actions and by making the ultimate sacrifice.

I say radical and remarkable because if you closely study The Sermon on the Mount, you’ll see what I mean. C’mon…turning the other cheek is one heck of a radical concept! Even today!

When I try to stand outside of my faith and look at Christianity as a product,  it’s amazing that it has spread throughout the world and has welcomed 2 billion adherents without depending on large scale ad campaigns, social media and the like.

Christianity has spread because one person – Jesus – started it by speaking his message of truth, being authentic, transparent and following a singular focused devout message of pure unconditional love for everyone.

It’s a great lesson for all of us people of the world and marketers too.

Happy Easter to all of you.

P.S.: With all due respect, this post is not meant to be sacrilegious at all, but merely an essay in effective branding/messaging. Also, for those of you interested in religious marketing lessons, I came across this Blog – Church Marketing Sucks – and found it pretty interesting. The site’s goal as stated is to…“frustate, educate and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ.” Another interesting post is here, Jesus Is Not a Brand; Why it is dangerous to make evangelism another form of marketing, by Tyler Wigg Stevenson.


March Madness Diversity Lessons

Growing up I was fortunate to be a decent athlete and play a lot of sports. Fortunate to be healthy, having fun and connecting with so many different people from all walks of life, races, creeds etc., that I never would have been influenced by or had the pleasure to meet.

While watching these crazy NCAA basketball games throughout March Madness you see the positive impact of team diversity – pay close attention and you’ll see and feel it. There were 11 different conferences represented in the Sweet 16, but the magic and excitement of seeing diversity goes so much deeper. Big schools, small schools, freshmen stars, senior role players, blacks, whites, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and so much more.

Really, do you remember a more exciting tournament? Diversity rocks!

The success of diversity leaves clues people.

Take for example, my McAlma Mater and good friends at McDonald’s who’ve been rocking these days. Check out McDonald’s Board of Directors and of the 15 representatives listed, you’ll note 4 women (yes – 4 women), 2 Hispanics, 1 African American (who happens to be President and COO), a European and I’m sure there are more diversity examples that are not visible on the surface such as work experience, cultural experiences and more.

I’m lovin’ McDonald’s Diversity lessons and you should too.

Diversity wins games and market share.

P.S.: One of my mentors Tom Peters agrees that diversity wins.  And, I’m happy to say one of McDonald’s Directors Jan Fields in a former boss of mine – you go Jan!


Sampling, Freemiums and Marketing Lagniappe

We work a lot in the restaurant and hospitality and retail industry. And, I’m amazed at how many businesses lack a sampling or “Free” taste test component in their marketing operations plans.

In 2008, Arbitron  studied product sampling (Arbitron product_sampling_study_2008) and over one-third (35%) of those who tried a sample bought the product during the same shopping trip. And, nearly 60% said they would buy a product after trying it.

Sampling, which reaches 70 million consumers every quarter, “is both effective in making new customers aware of products, while also establishing a firmer identity with those consumers who have considered the product before,” said Carol Edwards, svp of sales at Arbitron’s out-of-home media department, in a statement.

The survey segmented consumers into three areas: acquisitions (those new to the product), conversions (those willing to buy it after sampling it) and retentions (those who had previously purchased the product).

Check out these sampling results:

  • 85% of retentions who sampled a product said they would purchase it again compared to 60% of conversions.
  • Almost half (47%) said they would now look to purchase it.
  • 28% of respondents received a free sample in the past three months. Of that group, 64% said they accepted the sample.
  • Nearly a quarter of those polled (24%) said they bought the product they sampled instead of the item they initially set out to purchase.

Freemiums are another terrific way to generate customer interest and involvement by offering a product or service for free (e.g., software, educational webinar etc.) while charging a premium for advanced or special feature.

For example, I offer free marketing advice through my Blog, however for more specialized marketing consulting advice I charge a fee. And, it helps drive leads.

Marketing Lagniappe occurs when a brand offers a customer something for free and unexpected when they buy something – surprise and delight occurs. Stan Phelps’ new book due this Spring (can’t wait to read it – nice helpful Web site too) will highlight 1,001 “something extras” such as Doubletree Hotels’ practice of giving warm, delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Stan’s five R.U.L.E.S. for effective lagniappe are that these free offers need to be Relevant, Unexpected, Limited, Expression, Sticky.

I couldn’t agree more and plan to take a harder look at my client’s marketing plans and bake a little sampling, freemiums and/or lagniappe that surprises and delights into them. You should too.


Why You Should Outsource Marketing

In the past 20 years, business process outsourcing such as accounting, distribution and more became (still is) increasingly popular.  Advertising has been a widely accepted outsourced service, but what about outsourcing marketing?

In my experience, most brands have super marketing teams that excel in execution and creativity.  However, these crack teams are pulled in so many directions that they lack the time and skill or expertise  to think more strategically or analytically.

Over the last few months, our firm has participated in a lot of new business meetings and one of the key questions that eventually bubbles up is, “Why should I outsource my marketing?”

With the speed and sheer amount of radical changes in marketing (social media, mobile etc.), media fragmentation, economic challenges and more, marketing outsourcing is an attractive strategy to employ to cost effectively stay ahead of the marketing curve and your competition.

Here are 10 reasons why you should outsource your marketing.

  1. You’ll increase a laser like focus on your brand’s core competencies
  2. Corporate personnel can redirect their efforts in other business building areas
  3. You can immediately take advantage of world-class talent and specialized services
  4. You will gain an objective point of view and reduce bias
  5. Your overhead and payroll will decrease which will free up capital
  6. The amount of political corporate control will be reduced
  7. Your pace of positive change will accelerate and you’ll be more flexible to meet market changes
  8. Profits and overall business unit value and performance will increase
  9. You will improve productivity, product quality and service levels
  10. And, you’ll gain an immediate significant competitive edge

Certainly, your success is dependent upon choosing the right marketing partner and welcoming them as a true integrated partner. Start small with easy to manage projects and watch your business profitably grow.  Selecting a capable, trustworthy, enthusiastic outsourced marketing partner could be the final piece of your sales building puzzle.


Making Your Internet Search Experience Easier

Making common repeatable things easy for people to do is great way to stand out from the crowd and make money too.

Internet search engine fatigue is a biggie for me – and for over 70% of you too – and AllMyFaves has been a godsend to me. It’s a simple virtual and visual directory that includes a list of top and most visited sites in major daily-used subject categories such as Blogs, Entertainment, Games, Kids Shopping, Travel and Weekly Favs, but the Home Page alone is awesome.

AllMyFaves is an interesting customer service model for a self help tool.  And, it’s a great model for those of us looking to drive revenue because making things easier for time starved people is a killer strategy and will always be a welcome one.

Are you easy to do business with? Are there ways to improve your processes to improve your “easiness?” Can you improve your messages (e.g., Web site) with more visuals and/ore better design? Is it easy to search your own Web site and find things?

Study AllMyFaves and I’m sure you’ll find a few ideas to apply to your business and improve your quality of internet search life at the very same time.

Check out the AllMyFaves story here.


AMA Pittsburgh Marketer of the Year

Over the next two days, we’re participating in two separate presentations to the Pittsburgh American Marketing Association at the Duquesne Club downtown and to students at Chatham University.

My client John Graf – co-owner of the Priory Hospitality Group – and I are co-presenting and will review the success of our Winter White Wedding program which has driven first quarter wedding bookings by 400% and continues to rock – it helped us win the Pittsburgh American Marketing Association’s Grand Marketer of the Year Award!

The Priory’s Winter White Weddings are a true testament to the success of  “Blue Ocean Strategies” that profitably transform brands by pursuing low cost brand differentiation that makes your competition irrelevant.

To help you sail in Blue Oceans, click this link to review the Priory’s PowerPoint deck:
AMA Pittsburgh Marketer of the Year Priory Hotel 3.16.10


Sound Marketing Advice

There’s a great article in Fast Company about the, “The 10 Most Addictive Sounds in the World,” by Martin Lindstrom.

Lindstrom’s neuroscience based hypothesis contends that over 80% of today’s marketing messages are based on sight and a brand is not maximizing its communications when it forgoes appealing to a person’s other senses. And, sound is underutilized!

Take a quick quiz here.

I’ve certainly witnessed the appeal of sound in automotive, amusement park and restaurant marketing (e.g., background music, worker noise levels etc.,) and found it fascinating that when the sound was removed from slot machines in Las Vegas, revenue fell by 24%!

Be more aware of the power of sound because when your customers can hear your sizzling steaks, you’ll hear your cash register ring more loudly!


Canonsburg’s Candy Man Frank Sarris

A local Pittsburgh area marketing hero of mine passed away earlier this week Frank Sarris, founder and owner of Sarris Candies of Canonsburg, PA.

Here was a remarkable man who was dedicated to his business, community and family and did it all successfully and with class. We can all use a few more heroes like Frank Sarris.

How do I know this?

No…I never had the pleasure of meeting the man – sure wish I did – but, I’m a loyal customer and longtime fan of his candy (especially Sarris chocolate covered pretzels – the best in America) and I’ve followed his company’s story for years.

Here’s a wonderful obituary written by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Don Hammond. And, here are just a few of the many highlights in the obit of Frank Sarris’ life and brand that made him so special to me and to a ton of people:

  • He started his professional life as a forklift operator when he and his wife, Athena, began experimenting with making candy over 50 years ago in the basement of their home. Now Sarris Candies is a popular name throughout Western Pennsylvania and you can buy them at retail stores throughout the region. And, lots of kids sell them to raise money for their school activities too.
  • He and his wife had a terrific bond and she’s credited with encouraging him to keep perfecting his candy in the basement while she kept working as a secretary. And, with all their success, they lived for 33 years (of their more than 50 years in the business) in an apartment over their candy store while putting their money back into the operation
  • Frank was named Pennsylvania Small Business Person of the Year in 2001 by the Pittsburgh office of the U.S. Small Business Administration and named one of the nation’s top four small-businesspeople at a White House ceremony attended by President George W. Bush.
  • The Sarris family has given millions to help Pittsburgh area universities, hospitals and their local neighborhoods

And, anytime I’ve ever read about the Sarris family or heard a story about them the following adjectives were always used kind, caring, smart, integrity, character, humble.

Here’s my question for you, “What’s your obituary going to be?”

Strive to be like Frank Sarris.

Frank’s story proves that it’s possible to be successful in every role Brand You plays and you can also do it with class.

Sweet dreams Candy Man. May God grant his peace to you and your family.

P.S.: I believe a big reason why Sarris Chocolate Covered Pretzels are the best in America is because they leave a little salt on their pretzels and their milk chocolate simply rocks!


Dominos Calls Baby Ugly and Doubles Profits

As a brand marketing consultancy, people pay us to, “call their baby ugly” and discover profitable ways to make it more attractive. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially when the business owners or leaders you’re consulting with happen to be the ones who gave birth to the baby you’re critiquing.

A few months ago, I caught the news and television commercials about how Dominos Pizza executives blatantly called their baby – a pizza pie – ugly. They announced that they had listened to their customers (inside the company and outside the company) and had taken strong, bold steps to clean up their act and improve their product.

I applauded their authentic, open approach and knew if they were true to their words with actions and walked their talk, their honesty would be rewarded in spades.

Here are the steps Dominos took:

1. They first listened to their customers (internal and external) and agreed to take action because they believed what they were hearing – that is, their product was not good. They started to revamp their recipes more than 1.5 years ago following a ton of focus group and social media site criticism. Remember, the first step to transforming (see rehab) a brand or yourself is admitting you have a problem and need help.

2. They “started over” (total transformation) from scratch by revamping their pizza recipe (new sauce and cheese combination and herb-and garlic-flavored crust)

3. They launched an honest documentary style ad campaign (in short, “we’re sorry…we agree with you that our baby tastes like cardboard…we did something remarkable about it…we think you’ll love it…please try us again”)

The result? A ton of curious customers rushed to try the new Dominos pizza and rocked their sales. In fact, Dominos Pizza Q4 2009 profits more than doubled!

Here’s a great Dominos turnaround video explaining how it all went down.

And, here is a link to a current Dominos commercial challenging Papa John’s claims and a link to the story about their amazing results.

So what are some of the steps you should take when your company or client is performing poorly and you recognize radical change is needed?

Here are 2 suggestions.

1. Be careful and smart with your language. You need to be careful to not to just slam the poor quality of your brand’s systems, products, people, processes etc., because the people you’re trying to influence may be defensive. Have concrete facts.

2. Concentrate all positive energies on transformational business building ideas. Focus on specific business building ideas to help them achieve their KPIs (key performance indicators).achieve their business objectives. Discuss how you’ve experienced similar challenges and relay to them potential outcomes and blue sky possibilities.

Be a marketing ambassador of hope and handle those ugly babies with kid glove because when you do, their brand parents will adopt your way of thinking!

P.S.: I love all babies.