Speak for Yourself

I’ve always been amazed (OK and maybe a little bit jealous) at the amount of money that brands dish out to celebrities to be their spokesperson/s. I’ve yet to see a demonstrative ROI case proving that a celebrity spokesperson contributed to a brand’s success.

Don’t get me wrong, if a celebrity truly uses the product and is successful, a brand can reap huge awards (e.g., Michael Jordan and Air Jordans). However, if a celebrity is not a visible user and is used as mere off the shelf talent, why bother with the added expense? Instead, use someone far less expensive – and just as effective – and make your product the hero.

I bring this up because the Aflac duck lost its voice yesterday after it fired comedian Gilbert Gottfried – the voice of the quacking duck (not in Japan though) for tweeting jokes about the earthquake and tsunami that has rocked Japan and its poor people. God bless them.

Here’s a brief statement from Aflac’s news release. “Gilbert’s recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac,” Michael Zunda, the company’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

What a jerk – Gottfried that is!

I feel for Zunda, but he should know better. There are thousands of voiceover talents that could nail that Aflac quack for far less dough.

How would you like to have a ‘spokesduck’ voice like Gottfried making jokes about a cataclysmic event that killed nearly 2,500 people to date and projections are that possibly 10,000 are feared dead.  And, tens of thousands are homeless.

Again, what a jerk!

And, how about this fact? Aflac, does 75% of its business in Japan!!

Gottfried (the coward) hasn’t apologized or responded yet for his classless tweeted jokes such as:
  1. “I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, ‘They’ll be another one floating by any minute now.’”
  2. “Japan called me. They said ‘maybe those jokes are a hit in the U.S., but over here, they’re all sinking.'”
  3. “I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said ‘is there a school in this area.’ She said ‘not now, but just wait.'”

I’m sure Aflac is a class act company.  In fact, they’re giving the International Red Cross 100 million yen (U.S. $1.2 million) to aid in disaster relief. However, this ‘brand stain’ could have/should have been avoided because Gottfried has a history of classless behavior.

For example (per the New York Times), three weeks after 9/11 at a Friars Club roast for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, Gottfried said that he had tried to catch a plane but couldn’t get a direct flight because “they said they have to stop off at the Empire State Building.”

Again, what a jerk!

Any parent will tell you that no one can babysit their kids like them. No matter how terrific their parents or neighbors are to their kids, parents do it better.

Similarly, no one can babysit your brand like you can – remember that.

For me, when it comes to spokespeople, give me a Frank Perdue of Perdue Chicken – or someone like him – any old day! Silent mascots like Mickey Mouse work wonders too!

P.S.: Hey, if you’re looking for a job and can quack like the Aflac duck, there is nationwide casting call to find a new voice of the iconic spokesbird! True.
P.S.S.: See interesting slideshow of top Celebrity Spokesperson Fiascos.

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10 Profitable Groupon Marketing Tips

I’ve been a fan of Groupon since one of our Pittsburgh restaurant clients launched the city’s first promotional campaign. And, I’ve become a bigger fan since other hospitality clients have achieved success and after discovering that Groupon founder Andrew Mason is a Pittsburgh (Mt. Lebanon) native – you go guy!

If you read the marketing trades you’ll find some complaints about the lack of profitability of using Groupon as a marketing tactic, but I’d bet that those complainers were not prepared to take advantage of the popular loss leader strategy.

Here are ten profitable Groupon marketing tips.

1. Say “NO” if you’re below. Below average that is. In short, you do not want to feature your brand in a Groupon campaign if you don’t “bring it.” That is, if you sell lousy food (even marginally or mediocre OK), have poor service etc., you do not want to do Groupon! If you do not “deliver the goods”, Grouponers may simply put you out of business earlier than you would normally through negative reviews online etc.!

2. Get buy-in to prevent crying. Far in advance of your scheduled launch, talk through the campaign pros/cons of Groupon with your staff. Get their buy-in early on and clearly explain why everyone needs to be engaged in this huge loss leader effort and why you’ll need all hands and minds on deck to flawlessly execute the campaign. Tell them, “what’s in it for them!”

3. Map your cap. Cap the total number of deals you provide to Grouponers. This creates urgency and protects margins since the offer deadlines are long. Plus, you need to make sure you can handle the traffic.  Sure you want to make short term money – you always do – but your eyes need to be on the prize of repeat business!

4. Don’t wreck your average check. Make sure your deal/offer does not match you average check/purchase to allow for upsell and add-on sales opportunities. And, a lower price tag protects you as well on total customer acquisition costs. Keep in mind that you’re earning around 1/4th of what you’d usually make in an average sale which means you’re losing 3/4ths on virtually every sale.

5. Don’t laugh – add staff. Trust me – make sure you add staff to handle increases in store traffic, phone calls and web hits during and after the sale. You’ll need it!

6. Right your Website. It’s highly likely that your Web site has never seen the kind of traffic it will see on your Groupon day. Make certain your brand’s value proposition is clear, meaningful and relevant throughout your Website and especially on your home page because it’s going to get pounded. And, fix your typos, broken links etc., – net, clean it up! Also, monitor your Groupon comments on your “game day” and answer questions there as well on your social media channels.

7. Up-sell, cross sell and do well. Train your customer facing personnel to up-sell and cross-sell and guide all Grouponers to more profitable add-ons. However, make sure you have lots of exciting ones to offer too.

8. Train to explain. Carefully review (and test their knowledge) your Groupon procedures and rules of the game with all team members so they in turn can explain the campaign to customers, friends and family. You need to do this crucial step to ensure viral communications and no surprised/unhappy customer experiences. Make certain everyone is happy to take Groupon customers and consider putting someone in charge to answer escalated questions and make on the spot decisions to satisfy customer concerns.

9. Retain and gain. Since Groupon does not give up its email database and/or the contact information of customers who take advantage of your offer, it’s critical you have a system (recording system and/or additional incentive for customers/staff) in place to capture valuable new customer contact information (e.g., email addresses, mailing addresses, cell phone numbers, birthdays etc.,). You’ll also want to track your success with regard to add-ons, average check/transaction, redemption rates,  repeat business and more to determine your success and key learnings should you do it again – consider a customer survey too!

10. Show how to WOW now. A ton of your Grouponers will be new customers (and might be bringing other new customers in with them) and may be unfamiliar with your unique value proposition, but you have a great – maybe once in a lifetime – opportunity to WOW them, make them repeat customers and spread your good word. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity. Be a servant leader and SERVE lights out!

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Marketing a Homecoming Experience

Kent State football players celebrate with the Wagon Wheel trophy following a 28-17 victory over the visiting Akron Zips

I had a great time Saturday in Kent, Ohio visiting come great old college friends, going to the homecoming football game against Akron with my buddy Don and hitting Ray’s Place – one of my favorite old haunts – it’s truly a time machine!

A lot of things have changed about Kent since I graduated in 1983 – some good and some not so good – but mostly good. Time may move on, but fond memories – experiences – last a lifetime.

Three of the “places that are no longer there” are:

Kent Ohio's Jerry's Diner

Jerry’s Diner – an old diner that was open for 23 hours a day (one hour to clean) 7 days a week where I had many a late night meal and will always remember my friend Ron’s favorite order...”I’ll have a cheeseburger without.” The waitress would say, “Without what?” And he’d reply, “Without hair!” The memory (and so many others) still makes me laugh.

Jerry’s motto was, “Give grease a chance” and its final words were, “Rest in grease.” I still love it.

Kent Motor Inn

Another place that hit the wrecking ball, was the Kent Motor Inn where I lived my senior year. It was a close walk to town and to classes. I lived in an efficiency in the back away from the normal rentals. I’d often joke to my friends that I always felt like I was on vacation, because my TV was mounted high up in the corner of the room, had a bar sink, a fold out couch…what a life…it didn’t get much better.

And sadly, the final place no longer around is the Stuffed Mushroom tavern where I tended bar and bounced. We had the best Happy Hour around – 3 drinks for $1.00 from 4-6 p.m.; 2 for 1 from 6-8 p.m. and 25 cent Kamikazi’s all night long. Owner Terry Mormile was an awesome, giving, smart  guy and Ed Logan was a terrific manager who taught me a ton about customer service.

What a great 4 year Experience!

Experiential marketing is all the rage in today’s marketing, but so much of what I learned about experiential marketing – if I truly give pause to think about it – I learned during my days at Kent State.

My big takeaway about experiential marketing is helping your customers immerse themselves in your brand – help them to be part of the fabric of it. Most of us who went away to college had a great time and retain fond memories because of our interactive, fun, humorous, engaging, educational, experiential, immersive experiences.

That’s what experiential marketing is all about.

Present your brand in a framework of engaging entertainment and education and forget the traditional sales spiel. By helping your customers truly immerse themselves in your brand experience today, you just might make them customers for life.

Hey, I graduated from Kent State in 1983 and I’m still a BIG FAN nearly 30 years later!

Thanks Kent State and thanks to all my college friends for the great experience!

P.S.: For more information, check out the International Experiential Marketing Association and their manifesto.

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L.L. Bean’s Powerful Guarantee

Guaranteed. You have our word.

How much clearer can you get?

What a powerful customer service guarantee!

Here’s the body copy from L.L. Bean’s Website:

I’ve been a huge fan of L.L. Bean for years and became an even bigger fan last Friday.

L.L. Bean Field Coat Saddle

Last week, I was getting my favorite coat out of my closet for Fall – an original L.L. Bean Field Coat in Saddle – and making my plans to head to my alma mater Kent State’s homecoming.

Suddenly, I realized that I’ve been wearing this Field Coat (created in 1924) for nearly 15 years! I love it and there is still absolutely nothing wrong with it – it’s a terrific coat – but I’ve been wearing this jacket to homecoming every year!

I went through some old photos and proved it!

L.L. Bean Field Coat Stone

So, I went online and decided to get a new Stone Field Coat which is better than my old one and about the same price that I paid years ago! It’s a fantastic coat, but what amazes me about L.L. Bean is how they’ve stayed true to their roots and excelled as a private, family business.

If you’re trying hard to build your business the right way and need a little hope, grab a coffee and read L.L. Bean’s fascinating, refreshing story – their principles when they were small are the same as they are today when L.L. Bean remarked,

“I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out
and customer still satisfied.”

From my experiences, I’m not surprised that L.L. Bean was once again the first place winner (tops 3 of 5 years) selected by shoppers in the annual NRF Foundation/American Express® Customers’ Choice survey back in January.  According to shoppers, the top ten* retailers for customer service are:

  1. L.L.Bean
  2. Overstock.com
  3. Zappos.com
  4. Amazon.com
  5. QVC
  6. Coldwater Creek
  7. HSN
  8. Lands’ End
  9. JCPenney
  10. Kohl’s, and Nordstrom (tied)

I know it’s hard for small to medium sized businesses to sometimes wrap their heads around the successes and lessons to be learned from larger brands, but you can learn a ton from L.L. Bean’s commitment to customer service, satisfaction, quality, systems and innovation.

Go online and buy something from L.L. Bean or even better, call in an order and you’ll be WOWED!

I GUARANTEE IT!

P.S.: Here’s a great interview from L.L. Bean’s president Chris McCormick about L.L. Bean’s customer service secrets.

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Social Media Marketing Presentation

Yesterday, I was honored to give a Social Media Marketing presentation at the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association’s Western Chapter’s Harvest Your Profits Fall Summit (click here to download presentation). The presentation certainly had a restaurant, hospitality focus, but it’s applicable to most any retail industry.

Having worked in hospitality and restaurant marketing for over 20 years, it’s close to my heart because it’s one of the toughest, yet most gratifying industries. If you’re looking for leading edge marketing, look no further than the folks in the hospitality industry because the great ones know that they need to “bring it” every day – the successful ones know that they’re only as good as their last meal!

You got to love people with that kind of attitude and passion – it’s contagious – and a BIG reason I love working in the industry.

And, you got to love the people who volunteer their time and expertise to associations like the PRA and staffers such as Heidi Howard. They selflessly work hard to help move the hospitality industry forward  to make it better for themselves and their customers and at the same time defend it against government controls – many of which are unconscionable efforts to blatantly rob them (e.g., crazy drink taxes) of their hard earned money.

My thanks to PRA Western Chapter president Steve Musciano of ARAMARK and his board for inviting me, Susan Sansale, owner/operator of the beautiful venue The Chadwick (and incoming PRA Western Chapter president) for hosting the event and super organizer and board member extraordinaire Murrie Emamzadeh for orchestrating a super event!

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New iPad Wine List Rocks

I got my new iPad back in May – a moment in time I’ll always refer to as my “Christmas in May” and am having a love affair with it.

Sure there are things about the iPad that I wished it had, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

When I started to play with the iPad, I started to think thought long and hard about how we can apply it to improve our client’s business.

We do a ton of hospitality marketing work and this past summer, one of our great clients, Kevin Joyce owner of The Carlton Restaurant in Pittsburgh had closed his restaurant for two months for a much needed remodel after 25 years in business.

Kevin called me to go over some new ideas to kick off the new restaurant with a bang –  especially since his reopening was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 18 – opening night of Pittsburgh’s new Consol Energy Center with a concert by Sir Paul McCartney.

One of my first thoughts, was what could we do to:

  1. Reaffirm the fact that The Carlton has the biggest and best wine lists (15+ year Wine Spectator Award winner) – Great Wine is a big USP for the restaurant
  2. Complement The Carlton’s new 450 bottle wine library – the restaurant’s soul
  3. Showcase the fact that The Carlton offers the best wine dinners in Pittsburgh

In a snap, we thought, “Create an iPad Wine List to replace The Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list.” Using an iPad wine list would create a “halo” effect of flawless contemporary execution of the Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list and separate them even more so from the pack of restaurants they compete against.

As an aside – I know I may be biased, but I think The Carlton i the best restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh and I thought that fact to be true long before I started working for them…anyway…

Instinctively back in May, we Googled “iPad wine list” and could not find any U.S. restaurant using iPads for menus, but we found a great story about an Australian restaurant that swapped out its menus for iPads.

Kevin and I must have been doing a “Vulcan Mind Meld” at the time, because when we called him, he said he saw the Aussie story  and was ready to rock.

Our iPad wine list is not as aggressive as the Aussie menu – we prefer to walk before we run with the wine list first then potentially move to the food menu – but I can tell you that the iPad has significantly improved The Carlton’s brand image of Pittsburgh’s premier dining and wine establishment and improved wine sales too – customers love it!

We’ll soon cut a brief video explaining how the wine list works, but know these things:

  1. The iPad can be used to help lift your business
  2. Look for products and/or service executions that create brand “halo” USPs
  3. It’s better to phase in technology improvements to your business to flawlessly execute and gain an immediate WOW from your customers before someone else comes along and steals your marketing thunder and you look like a market follower and/or a “me too” brand**
  4. Great clients make great marketing firms

**Note: In the time we started to work on and launch The Carlton’s iPad wine list, there have been major news articles about iPad wine lists in use at Central Park South Gate restaurant (7.2.10),  Bones in Atlanta (9.13.10), III Forks in Jacksonville (8.11.10), but hey The Carlton had the first iPad wine list in Pennsylvania! More news to come as we continue to improve our iPad wine list effort.

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Always Aim to be the Best

We work with clients of all shapes and sizes – from struggling start up moms and pops to thriving market dominating multi-million dollar enterprises.

Recently, we were blessed to be introduced to Steve and Jen MacBride, a young married couple and co-owner/operators of The Archer’s Edge (TAE) in Oakdale, PA.

We assisted in their Grand Opening this past Saturday on National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Check out this news segment of The Archer’s Edge featuring Steve and reporter Kelly Frey of Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV (ABC affiliate) which will give you a good feel of the place.

Pretty good priceless PR for rookies – we’re so proud of them.

Proud because they deserve it. Proud because they “bring it.”

I’ve only known the MacBride’s for a few weeks, but I was impressed by them from the start and their desire to do great things.

I’m always surprised and saddened to visit businesses that simply just go along with the flow doing mediocre work and have no processes in place to “WOW” you. It’s all so boring, average, mediocre, dangerous and unnecessary.

Steve and Jen WOW you. Here are a few ways they WOW me.

  1. They have a ton of enthusiasm and passion for their new business, because they love archery and their enthusiasm is contagious
  2. They’re resilient because of their love of archery. They experienced a boatload of unfortunate and unforeseen challenges prior to launch, but their passion overrode all of them
  3. They “bring it” – enthusiasm, attention to detail, passion, excellence to their work
  4. Their goal is to be THE best archery center in Pittsburgh – not one of the best

I’m not a hunter and our business with TAE will not finance my retirement, but I’m a HUGE fan. Sure we’ve helped them a bit along the way with their PR and Marketing and will continue to offer our services. However, because their aim is to be the best (and they have plans to be), their future looks to b a bright one. We’re big fans and we will bust our tails to help them achieve their goals.

Great clients like the MacBrides make great marketing firms like us (we’ve got their back now) and when you build that kind of relationship everyone wins!

Always aim high!

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
– Les Brown

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s heaven for?”
– Robert Browning

“If you reach for the stars, you might not quite get one,
but you won’t end up with a handful of mud, either.”

– Leo Burnett

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$6 Google AdWords Campaign Lands Dream Job

For anyone looking for a new job (pay attention college grads) or trying to get that next big sale and running into a roadblock because you can’t get the attention of a key decision maker, check out this brilliant job search strategy by copywriter Alec Brownstein.

  1. Brownstein used Google AdWords to target Ad Agency Creative Directors on Madison Avenue in New York
  2. He bet 15 cents per click that these Creatives were no different than the rest of  us self absorbed people who Google ourselves
  3. What the CD’s saw when they Googled themselves was a personal ad from Brownstein – BRILLIANT!
  4. Young & Rubicam offered him a job!

Note: Brownstein’s Google Job Experiment YouTube video has been viewed over 500,000 times!  Rock on Alec!

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Guilty on All Three Counts

NERD ALERT!

This chart shows that nearly 30% of U.S. consumers use their cell phones and/or computers at the same time they watch TV.

And, I have to say that I’m guilty on all three counts and possibly four, because I can hold a conversation at the same time – at least I think so – but, don’t ask my wife!

The integration of marketing messages across platforms is becoming more critical by the minute – as well as the ability for Brand’s to create clear, easy to understand and remarkably meaningful communications.

Keep this chart in mind the next time you try to pack 60 seconds of vanilla milkshake copy into a 30 second television commercial!

Source: Experian Simmons DataStream 4.13.10

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