Honoring our Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day is a time we’re reminded of the sacrifices of the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces who have paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom. We pray that they have never died in vain. Today, we honor you our fallen heroes, but every day we thank you for freedom in our lives. May God bless you all and may he grant you eternal rest and peace. You will never be forgotten.

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Happy Easter

May the light of Jesus shine continually to drive away all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find his light ever burning in our hearts—he who gives his light to all creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

adapted from the Book of Common Prayer -1979, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

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15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day

As a 50 percenter of Irish blood and a serial marketing professional, I thought I’d offer you dear reader, my 15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day to help you find your little pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow!

And, I’ll offer them quickly because I shouldn’t even be working this hard today as I’m 17 days away from – and preparing for – St. Patrick’s Day which is one of my many “high holy days” – and there’s a Guinness pint with my name of it at my favorite Pittsburgh Irish pub (Riley’s Pour House) and it’s getting warm! So here you go!

1. Green Marketing Lesson One – Making Money. Always keep money (making it or saving it) front and center of any marketing campaign. If you know anything about the Irish (and I do growing up in a large extended family), the majority have experienced challenging economic times and know the value of a dollar. So, incorporating zero based budgeting into your marketing processes will help you become more creative and help you do a lot more for less. 

2. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Sustainability. These days when you hear brands talk about sustainability, it’s related to the environment, but the basic pure definition of sustainability is “the capacity to endure.” Using the same color in your marketing communications reinforces your brand, makes your marketing work harder for you and enables your marketing to endure.

3. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Color. Design and color can help you communicate a great deal. Red – hot, stop; Blue – cool. etc., Keep in mind that all colors also come in a great deal of shades so don’t be boring and predictable.  Green has about 50 unique shades.

4. Create Multi-Sensory Emotional Appeals (e.g., appeal to people’s five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). In a prior post about, “Marketing with Sound,” I discussed the awesome power of sound, but you should also consider all of the ways you can appeal to your customer’s five senses. St. Patrick’s Day appeals them all with color, strong visuals of parades, people having fun; taste of ethnic foods like corned beef and cabbage and drink (pints of Guinness and shots of Jameson) etc.,

5. Appeal to One’s Ethnic Heritage. There’s nothing wrong with appealing to people’s ethnic heritage – net, different strokes for different folks.  In fact, it’s a growing and popular strategy due to our mobile society, immigration, single parent households etc.

Some of this strategy’s keys to success include knowing your market well, being aware of unique cultural nuances, being respectful etc.  Disney’s Epcot Theme Park’s World Showcase is a great example of ethnic marketing, but Denny’s Restaurants’ old Pancake promotion is not.

6. Be Inclusive with Your Marketing. As much of an Irish heritage appeal the holiday provides, St. Patrick’s Day is all-inclusive and welcomes everyone to celebrate – everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

7. Special Event/Thematic/Celebration/Holiday Marketing. Giving a unique thematic association to your marketing messages makes it easier for your customers to understand you and more immediately recognize you too. Tie-ing in to a major holiday celebration gives your promotion authenticity and a “reason why” you’re holding a sales event.

8. Limited Time Appeal.
Having a hard date against a campaign creates urgency, excitement and traffic. Pretty obvious statement, but many marketers leave far too many campaigns without a clear end date and a sense of urgent appeal.

9. Spokesperson/figurehead/celebrity/image appeal. Having a Saint as your celebrity figurehead ain’t too shabby, but it’s the consistency of using the same appealing celebrity with a unique story is what works.

10. Iconic Marketing – Shamrock – brand, sell, profit. Mickey Mouse’s Ears, Ronald McDonald’s big red shoes, McDonald’s Arches and more.

Shamrocks do the same for today’s holiday – it’s the day’s badge of honor and identification. What’s your badge ID?

11. Rule of Threes. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the common Shamrock to teach the Celtic Pagans about the unique Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in 1 Godhead.

However, the “rule of three” symbolism in the good man’s teaching is relevant today as well because people’s minds are noisy and limited. Using the rule of three enables you to get them to remember you and buy-in a presentation or product mix selection. Small, medium, large; gold, silver, bronze; 3 bears; 3 blind mice; 3 Stooges (see more examples/proof here) – trust me – the rule of three rocks.

12. Be Positive. You won’t find a more positive group of people that the Irish. Despite all of their “Troubles” who else tells you that you can find a pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow? At Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade this past Saturday, people throughout the day referred to the cold constant rain as nothing more, “a little Irish mist!”

13. Be Nice. You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer bunch of people than the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day too.

14. Have fun and don’t take yourself so seriously. In this age of “political correctness” the Irish are for the most part a happy and fun bunch and most Irish demeaning jokes bounce of them like water on a duck.

15. Plan Your Luck by Working Hard. In my opinion, “the luck of the Irish” is based on hard work – simple as that. You’ve probably heard the saying, the harder you work the luckier you get!” Well, its true. The majority of Irish are no strangers to hard work and I believe – all things being equal – people that work harder and smarter than their peers will meet with more profitable success in a shorter period of time.

Got to run, my pint is getting warm.

Slan (Gaelic for “farewell for now”)!

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Have a Happy Father’s Day Every Day

My father died in 1999 and not a day passes by without me thinking of him – he was the best – a good man – and he was my best friend.

He might not be living, but he’s not dead to me.

He knew full well how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. I knew he loved me deeply too.

I was sad when he died, but not devastated because we had nothing left unsaid between us – we had no arguments – just pure love, joy and respect between us – he prepared me well.

When he was living, we talked often, we hugged often, we told each other we loved each other often – we were always connected.

We always knew where we stood together – for we always stood together in the light, in trust, in promise, in hope – in good times and not so good times.

Every day with my Dad was Father’s Day – a day of celebration – and I still celebrate him in many ways each and every day – in prayer, reflection, conversation and more.

If you’re not taking time to thank your Dad (living or in heaven) every day you’re missing a great opportunity to lift his spirit and yours by staying close, staying connected and being happy with your blessings.

It’s OK to have a process – once a day, week etc. – card, email, prayer etc. – just do it – and do it now and again and again. – make it a goal to ‘Have a Happy Father’s Day Every Day.’

This outlook and process is easily transferable to business as well.

For example, how often do you thank your clients, employees, partners, vendors in a meaningful way?

Do they know you care?

Do it now – put a process in place – keep it going – before it’s too late.

You don’t want to be ‘that guy/gal’ who says, if I only would have taken the time to…

Here’s a Father’s Day Gift for you.

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The Marketing Man Who Hates Advertising

The headline in this post comes from a comment that great client and friend of ours said about me a few years ago.

And, he’s repeated it to me on a few other occasions too.

He said, “As someone who’s been in marketing as long as you, why do you hate advertising so much?”

I answered – and continue to defend myself – that it’s not that I hate advertising, it’s just that I hate bad advertising that’s created to try extort people into believing in or buying unremarkable products and services.

It simply doesn’t work. And, it gives my profession a bad name.

Remember…if you put perfume on a pig…it’s still a pig!

The facts support my argument that there has been a crisis going on in mass media for years and most advertisers simply continue to do the same sad things over and over again.  That is, they spend too much money on TV advertising when they should invest those dollars in creating remarkable high-value products and services.

For example consider these facts*:

  • Only 14% of people trust advertising
  • Only 18% of television commercials achieve a positive return on investment
  • The average ROI is just 54 cents per every dollar spent on TV ads

Now, let’s talk about the biggest joke and general waste of advertising dollars – the Super Bowl.

Just another advertising effort that gives my profession a bad name.

I dread tomorrow listening to all of the so-called Advertising experts and pundits on the national news and talk shows discussing which ad was ‘cute and funny.”  Ugh!

For years, I’ve said that advertising on the Super Bowl is a waste of money. It still is a waste.

Back in 2008, E-Trade premiered commercials during Super Bowl XLII featuring a talking baby (the now infamous E-Trade Baby) in front of a Webcam pontificating about investing and finance in an adult voice. The campaign continued into the Super Bowl XLIII piling on with communications on other channels such Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

And, it continues to this day. Why?

It has to be because it’s ‘cute and funny‘ because it hasn’t done anything to build sales and/or turn around its stock price.

For proof, check out this screen capture I took last night comparing the Dow Jones average (blue)  vs. Schwab (green) and E-Trade (red).  Still laughing?

Now back in 2008, I predicted that the E-Trade baby would rock in advertising recall and likeability and I was proven right. The 2008 E-Trade baby Super Bowl ad campaign earned high marks of 7th most liked, 3rd and 8th most recalled.

However, after the premiere of the E-Trade Baby campaign, I cautioned clients that now that the seed is planted, the E-Trade brand needs to ‘show and tell’ how it has helped real people more effectively perform with personal investing.  They would need to show proof! And, to this day I say, “Where’s the proof?”

There is none and that’s one big reason why their stock is performing poorly vs. other averages. The E-Trade marketing folks must be getting away with this charade by saying, “But, look at our Ad recall numbers! Look at how many golfers know the word ‘shankapotomus.‘ 

To that rationale, I say, “Who cares!”

We do a ton of hospitality work. And, I bet you that we’d drive huge recall numbers by putting a dead body in the front window of any one of our restaurants with a banner stating, “People are dying to dine here!” I’d also bet that sales would rapidly fall.

There’s an old saying that, ‘The only person who likes change is a wet baby.’

I agree and also agree that the E-Trade campaign (and possibly product/service too) needs to be changed if it ever hopes to have happy investors.

Enjoy the game and make efficient use of your day today by getting a something to eat or drink or go to the bathroom during the commercial breaks.

*Source: Justin Kirby & Paul Marsden (2006).  Connected marketing.  Oxford, UK:  Butterworth-Heinemann. xix

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Target’s Super Black Friday Ad Campaign

Kudos to Target and its Ad Agency Weiden + Kennedy for their spot on Black Friday advertising campaign featuring this overly excited and anxious shopping FANatic.

And, file this effort in my “Darn I Wish I Did This Ad Campaign” folder.

Target is using 5 spots from last year (why not – who says an old great campaign can’t be re-engaged?) combined with another 30 online.  And, he talent casting, honest copy, imagery, sound and smart campaign integration (see all 35 videos) off and online is simply brilliant and off the charts.

It’s a great example of how ad campaigns should be run. Read Adweek’s take on it here.

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Pirates Miss PNC Park Anniversary Tag

Your birthday.  Your spouse’s, kid’s, parent’s, grandparent’s, brother’s, sister’s etc., birthdays. Your wedding anniversary and/or your parent’s anniversary. The 4th of July – America’s anniversary. All big time events and occasions to celebrate right?

Well, as a ‘homer’ living in Pittsburgh, and as a professional marketer I’m baffled by the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates marketing team did absolutely nothing – zero – not a thing – this season to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PNC Park (a gift by the citizens of Pittsburgh), arguably the best ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.

Hey, but don’t take my word that the Pirates’ PNC Park is the best, check out this brief  ranking list of the best Major League Baseball ballparks by some of the ‘folks that really know’:

YELP ranks PNC Park first

Fox Sports ranks PNC Park first

ESPN ranks PNC Park first

Forbes ranks PNC Park third

Now, certainly you can argue that PNC Park might not be the best Park in all of Major League Baseball, but you’d have to agree that it’s at least in the Top 5.  And, even if PNC Park wasn’t ranked that high, why wouldn’t you still take advantage of the significance of the date and celebrate all season long?

In fact, the symbolism for a 10th year anniversary for the Pittsburgh Pirates is incredible too.  The symbol for the 10th year anniversary is aluminum or tin and here we have one of the greatest companies ever headquartered in Pittsburgh – ALCOA – the Aluminum Company of America (its Headquarters is only .19 miles or 44 seconds from PNC Park) and the world’s leading producer of aluminum! And the designated gemstone of a 10 year anniversary is the diamond…get the symbolism, baseball diamond?

You could also argue, that the Pirates didn’t have much to celebrate and/or remember over the past 10 years, but don’t we all have bad years? It doesn’t mean you forgo celebrating your birth!

We do a ton of hospitality marketing consulting and anyone in the business will tell you the profitable, sales building significance of celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries.

It’s sad and disappointing that the Pittsburgh Pirates missed the tag on the 10th anniversary of PNC Park. They would have hit the cover of the ball knocking it clear out of the Park and into the Allegheny River!

Don’t forget to step up to the plate and swing for the fences when your brand’s birthday/anniversary rolls around!

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A Memorial Day to Remember

As a marketer, I’m all for promotions and sales, but over the past few years, I have become increasingly sickened and saddened by the commercialization of Memorial Day.

Throughout this past week, my mailbox was overflowing with Memorial Day/Weekend sales messages and offers, my TV has been pounding me with offers and yesterday I awoke to find a free American flag in my front yard with a real estate agent’s business card attached to it.

So, when I discovered Steve McCallion’s series in Fast Company magazine about how to make Memorial Day for meaningful, it struck a chord with me.

I’ve always considered myself a patriotic guy, but confess I’ve strayed away from participating in the true message and meaning of Memorial Day. That’s why today and for future Memorial Days, I will pause to reflect and remember my family members who have served in America’s wars.

More importantly, I will pay homage and tribute to – and pray for – those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives in battle such as the following men who attended my alma mater Bishop Canevin High School in Pittsburgh, PA – Joel D. Coleman, ’63, James K. McAleer, ’64, Robert F. Bahl, Jr., ’65, James F. Engelmeier, ’66, Norman F. Benedik, ’66 and Ryan J. Kovacicek, ’01.

It is my hope that today and for years to come we Marketers and Americans will follow a new tradition of putting ‘Memorial’ back into Memorial Day.

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25 Brand Marketing Lessons From My Mom

This weekend is always a great time for me, because it gives me extra time to truly pause and reflect on my super Mom – I adore her (same goes for my mother-in-law too) and am so very blessed to have her in my life. Now, I’ve always been a believer in the Big Guy upstairs, but I’ll tell you if my Mom doesn’t make it to heaven, there just simply isn’t one!

While Mother’s Day comes just once a year, every day should be Mother’s Day for the incredible role they play in all of our lives.

Don’t you agree?

Salary.Com, has highlighted all of the job titles that best define all of Moms’  responsibilities which are (in order of hours spent per week): housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, facilities manager, van driver, psychologist, laundry machine operator, janitor and chief executive officer. I’d add dog walker/caregiver, guardian/protector, nurse/doctor, motivational speaker, cheerleader, life coach, healthcare consultant, gardener (PLUS – “day job’ working mom if it applies) and I’m sure my Mom could list more!

So what is Mom worth?

For me, and I’m sure for you, Mom is priceless, however Salary.Com gave it a shot to actually put a price tag on Mom’s work.

Based on a survey of more than 28,000 mothers, Salary.com determined that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would equate to an annual salary of $117,867 for a stay-at-home mom. Working moms ‘at-home’ salary is $71,868 in 2010; this is in addition to the salary they earn in the workplace.

Here’s a really cool thing you can give Mom on her special day – a customized paycheck – now you can’t put a price tag on your Mom, but Salary.Com is certainly giving it a go!

In Marketing, strong Brands are what it’s all about, so what you can you learn about brand marketing from Brand Mom? Here are 25 lessons (in no particular order) from where I’m sitting:

  1. Have unconditional love for your family
  2. Tell the truth, admit when you’re wrong and be truly sorry
  3. Leave things and people better off than when you found them
  4. Stand for something – Care
  5. Clean up after yourself
  6. Don’t be a blind follower – lead
  7. Surround yourself with positive people
  8. Do good work and be proud of your work
  9. Perseverance – have resolve
  10. Be a team builder
  11. Be positive and enthusiastic
  12. Be respectful and respect yourself
  13. Be disciplined and follow through on execution
  14. Keep your word – walk your talk
  15. Servant leadership – serve others without looking for payback or PR
  16. Smile, be nice and be courteous – say thank you and please
  17. Speak up, speak clearly and write well
  18. Say thank you and mean it
  19. Plan ahead and be resourceful
  20. Have faith, hope and dreams – think big
  21. Know the value of a dollar – save money for raining days
  22. Learn how to bounce and roll because you’ll fall and fail often
  23. Sweat the details, but don’t sweat the small stuff
  24. Be true to yourself – don’t be someone you’re not
  25. Money isn’t everything, but Family is

Thanks Mom!

How about you? Anything to add?

Happy Mother’s Day Super Moms Everywhere!

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