Thanks for Making a Dent in Our Universe

Our world lost a great man yesterday – Steve Jobs.

Jobs impacted my life in numerous ways through not only his great innovations and style, but also in his words.

Here’s my top 10 list of Steve Job quotes that have resonated with me over the years.

God bless you Steve and many thanks.  You’ll be missed.

Steve Jobs Top 10 Best Quotes

  1. “We’re here to put a dent in the universe, otherwise why else even be here?”
  2. “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
  3. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
  4. “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity.  Simple can be harder than complex. You need to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple, but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
  5. “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
  6. Remembering that you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
  7. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
  8. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
  9. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone elses life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
  10. We don’t get a chance to do that many things and every one should be really excellent because this is our life.”

…And, one more thing!

10+.    “You know a design is good when you want to lick it.” … And, “Design is not what it looks like.  Design is how it works.”

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You Need a Marketing Invention Factory

A little over a year ago, I toured the Fort Myers, FL winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford two of my favorite business heroes.

Edison and Ford’s fascinating friendship is a story of mutual admiration and a story of curiosity, experimentation, persistence, inventions, failures, achievements and brand legacies.

Both had little formal education – Edison left school at age 8 and Ford had about 3 years – however, both achieved great success through radical life improving innovations that we continue to enjoy to this day.

In my business engagements, regardless of brand size, I’m discouraged by the lack of courage and innovation by most brand leaders.  And, it’s sad.

It’s sad, because innovation can be achieved when you desire, demand and plan for it.

Both Edison and Ford believed in dreaming big and visualizing the impossible and making it possible.  The had invention factories and labs (at work and at their vacation homes) and they believed in open collaboration and getting things done – acting on things – and fast failing.

So, my question is, “Where’s your invention factory?”

“What’s your process and how do you plan for it?

Are you a trailblazer, an industry leader or a simple follower?

For some time, I’ve felt that Americans have lost their innovation edge and others do agree, but brands such as Apple and Starbucks offer hope and guideposts (just wish I saw more American manufacturing innovators).

Much like Edison and Ford who believed in collaborative innovation work, Starbucks’ modern spin is its highly successful “My Starbucks Idea” which is an online crowdsourcing initiative that enables its raving fans to offer new ideas for products, brand experiences and involvement improvements.

My Starbucks Idea is celebrating its 3rd anniversary this month – and it’s Starbucks 40th anniversary too (read about their four new products)!

MSI is an awesome crowdsourced innovation tool.  To date, it has generated (as of a few minutes ago) 107,450 ideas and launched 130 new ideas.  In addition, people get to view ideas in action and see which ones are under review have been reviewed are in the works, and have been launched and demonstrates that Starbucks is a listening and caring brand.

In fact, customer input on My Starbucks Idea led to the development of the Starbucks Card Mobile App for select BlackBerry smartphones last September and the “Give a Gift” feature – the 100th MSI.

I love the MSI concept and I’ll bet there is an crowdsourcing idea here worth exploring for you.

Think about ways to create your own invention or innovation factory be it online (Starbucks uses Salesforce.Com) or offline or a combination of both.

For example, you could simply start with having bi-weekly meetings with your staff to brainstorm innovative cost saving or revenue producing ideas.

However, if you don’t plan for ‘it,’ I guarantee you ‘it’ won’t happen for you!

P.S.: For more about Edison, check out Time Magazine’s feature, The Making of America: Thomas Edison. I found it ironic that there was a Starbucks banner ad when I first clicked on the link.

P.P.S: A great source of innovative companies to research and model is provided by Fast Company Magazine every year. Check out Fast Company’s 2011 Most Innovative Companies.

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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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Square Watermelon Marketing Innovation

I suppose with all the beautiful newness and growth that Spring brings, I find myself more inspired and looking for ways to help my clients breakthrough  with innovative new ways of doing things.

Spring never fails me.

I truly work on being innovative and constantly look for inspiration inside and outside of my industry.

And, it’s always awe inspiring to me to see common things done in an uncommon way.

How about square watermelons?

As you know, a round watermelon can take up a lot of space in your refrigerator and the usually round fruit often sits awkwardly on refrigerator shelves.

Innovative Japanese farmers have forced their watermelons to grow into a square shape.

They do it by inserting the melons into square, tempered glass cases while the fruit is still growing on the vine.

Here’s a picture of the packaging.

And, here’s one way Mr. Clean uses Crosswalk lines for advertising/product placement:

And, here’s another use by a local office supply store:

If you’re inspired to become more innovative – anyone can learn to be more innovative – try using Ideo’s method cards and/or reading: The Ten Faces of Innovation: Ideo’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate & Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization. And, read a few of Roger Von Oech’s books too. Roger and I go back a long way – he’s been giving me whacks on the side of my head for many years..

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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.

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11 Ways to Think Better

It seems to me that over the past few years, many of us have veered far away from sound thinking.  Not just strategic thinking – simple common sense thinking too – and just about all other kinds of thinking in between.

I’ve always been one to strive for better ways to use my noodle and to put it to good use. Certainly, I’ve had my share of blunders, but when I carefully analyze them, I realize that I didn’t take time to think to make a sound decision, gather enough intelligence, come up with enough good ideas etc., and ACT!

I owe a great deal of my street smarts to my brothers and parents – especially my father. And, I owe a lot of my business savvy to several generous mentors over the years. Plus, I’ve gained a great deal of inspiration and insight into better thinking by reading a mini library of books.

I’ve spent my entire professional life in Marketing, and a few authors and books that have helped me in the marketing thinking field include David Ogilvy’s, Confessions of an Advertising Man; and, A Whack on the Side of the Head, by Roger Von Oech.

However, these books don’t even come close to scratching the surface for me. I read a new marketing related book just about every two weeks and several magazines, e-zines etc.,  Plus, I continuously drink the cool-aid and read and re-read the works of great thinkers like Edison, Godin, Jobs, Kawasaki, Peters, Reis and Trout and more.

A great tool I use is a gift (I paid for the tool, but it’s so valuable to me that I consider it a gift) I received from the innovation masters at IDEO (absolutely love these people).  IDEO’s Method Cards have helped me to discover better design ideas.

Today, with so much information at your fingertips and the pace of new information coming at you fast and furious from so many sources, it is increasingly difficult to process it all and make sound decisions and act upon them.

So what can you do?

For me, I’ve found that John Maxwell’s book, Thinking For A Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work to be very beneficial.

I enjoyed and got some use out of Malcolm Gladwell’s, Blink, whose POV is based more on the merits of intuitive, quick thinking rather than Maxwell’s critical thinking hypothesis – which I prefer – and when I take time to do it magical things happen.

Thinking For A Change’s case is based upon the hypothesis that successful people think differently than unsuccessful people and says that if you change your thinking, you will change your life. Yeah, I’d bet on that.

Here are the 11 thinking skills the book teaches:

1. Big-picture thinking – does your thinking extend beyond you and your world
2. Focused thinking – concentrate to find clarity on your actual problems
3. Creative thinking – think outside the box and find break through thinking
4. Realistic thinking – does your thinking have a solid foundation based in reality
5. Strategic thinking – is your thinking leading to ways for you to reach your potential
6. Possibility thinking – helps you find solutions to difficult problems
7. Reflective thinking – revisit history to gain understanding and learn from it
8. Popular thinking – question popular thinking and see if you’re simply rejecting the limitations of common thinking
9. Shared thinking – connect with others to expand and sharpen your thinking
10. Unselfish thinking – consider others and their needs
11. Bottom-line thinking – be focused on results

Maxwell also provides a lot of good examples of these thinking styles at work and I’m sure the book will help you become a better thinker. This is a great book for breaking down the critical thinking process and encouraging people to start thinking again. Especially during these fast times we live in where we all get a ton of new messages every day and information overload is overwhelming.

Maxwell’s book about critical thinking, whereas Gladwell’s Blink is a book about intuitive thinking. To think better you need to practice both methods.

P.S.: Check out some of Thomas Edison’s thoughts on creativity and hard work too.  Lots of good books on old Tom. I loved At Work with Thomas Edison, by Blaine McCormick. Also, consider adding Edison’s Idea Quota into your daily routine!

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Pittsburgh’s New Innovative Giant Eagle

Twenty years or so ago, I had several conversations with marketing colleagues about how supermarket chains lacked creativity. The general experience was underwhelming and one that most people dreaded.

During those years, I would take Cadillac, Oldsmobile and McDonald’s clients into Wegman’s supermarkets throughout western, New York to show them how great they were and to learn merchandising, customer service and overall retailing lessons they could take back to their car dealerships and restaurants.

They were amazed that you entered the store through the produce department instead of the typical trip past the cash registers as was the general industry practice way back then. Their merchandising strategies had no peer.

Wegman’s then and now, is one of the most innovative and well-run supermarket chains in America. It’s no surprise to me that they’re ranked #3 on FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For.” They are consistently ranked as one of the top supermarket chains in the country and have received a ton of well deserved awards.

Stew Leonard’s – the world’s largest dairy store – was a hot case study of discussion too.

And way back then, I could not understand why the innovation I saw across the country was not occurring in my own backyard.

About 10 years ago, I got some some luncheon meat from the deli at my hometown Giant Eagle supermarket and was ecstatic to receive it in a plastic bag instead of paper! I mentioned my discovery to a colleague of mine whose spouse worked for the company and told me that the store received the bags as part of some deal and they were simply testing to get some use out of them. Amazing – it was a huge boost to my satisfaction.  This little simple new touch was so well received that it quickly spread throughout their stores and became a permanent part of their system.

Well, something must be a bit different in the water these days in Pittsburgh’s three rivers (especially the Allegheny River) because Giant Eagle has been on a tear of remarkably innovative new product launches such as its:

And now, Giant Eagle is testing in four concept stores it’s latest innovation for HBW (health/beauty/wellness) which could become a huge profit center by linking its supermarket pharmacies with its HBW departments. What a stroke of innovative genius.

I’m happy the new Giant Eagle has finally landed in “innovation land.” Their story should demonstrate to older established brands that it’s never too late to innovate.

To profitably increase your market share you need to establish an innovation plan and follow it. Don’t wait for competitors to come into your neighborhood to force you to do it. Self inflicted innovation is the preferred route to take.

P.S.: Not all innovations have to be big and expensive – think deli meat plastic bags.

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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.

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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

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BrandMill Campaign Helps Priory Hospitality Group Win Pittsburgh’s Grand Marketer of the Year Award from American Marketing Association

AMA Priory Pittsburgh's Grand Marketer of the YearFor the second consecutive year, a BrandMill marketing campaign has helped a client become a Marketer of the Year recognized by the Pittsburgh American Marketing Association. However, this year’s recognition is extra special because BrandMill client, the Priory Hospitality Group took home first prize honors as Pittsburgh’s Grand Marketer of the Year!

Here’s the full press release from the Pittsburgh American Marketing Association.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact:
Kim Butler – President, Pittsburgh AMA
412.234.0294, kimberly.butler@bnymellon.com

The Priory Hospitality Group Named Grand Marketer of the Year

PITTSBURGH, PA – December 15, 2009 — The Pittsburgh chapter of the American Marketing Association held its 3rd Annual Marketer of the Year Awards ceremony Wednesday, December 10 at LeMont. Bill Flanagan served as Master of Ceremonies. The Priory Hospitality Group was presented with the 2009 Grand Marketer of the Year Award for its Winter White Wedding marketing campaign.

“The Priory Hospitality Group is thrilled to receive the Grand Marketer of the Year award from the Pittsburgh AMA,” said John Graf, co-owner of the Priory Hospitality Group.  “It is an unexpected and treasured honor to be recognized among some of the illustrious brands that call Pittsburgh home.

Winners of Pittsburgh’s only results-based marketing competition were recognized in 9 categories for their marketing excellence and effectiveness.  The 9 finalists and Marketers of the Year in their respective categories are:

  • Art Institutes of Pittsburgh, EDMC, Education
  • Benner Commerce Park, Real Estate
  • Butler Health System, Medical/Healthcare
  • Channellock, Industrial/Manufacturing
  • Giant Eagle, Retail
  • Pitt Ohio Express, Business/Professional Services
  • Priory Hospitality Group, Sports/Entertainment/Travel/Hospitality
  • Private Wealth Advisors, Financial Services
  • Sauereisen, Construction
David "Mr. McFeely" Newell of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Accepting Fred Rogers' Pittsburgh AMA Hall of Fame Award
David "Mr. McFeely" Newell of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Accepting Fred Rogers' Hall of Fame Award

Mr. Fred Rogers was honored posthumously at the event as a local and legendary brand and inducted into the Pittsburgh AMA Hall of Fame for his unique and impressive marketing impact throughout western Pennsylvania and the world.  Dr. Dean R. Manna, Robert Morris University, was honored with the Distinguished Educator Award.

“The event was a huge success,” said Kim Butler, President of the Pittsburgh AMA.  “We are honored to celebrate such phenomenal marketers in the Pittsburgh region and to shine a positive light on the marketing profession.”

About the American Marketing Association and its Pittsburgh Chapter
The American Marketing Association, one of the largest professional associations for marketers, has 38,000 members worldwide in every area of marketing. For over six decades the AMA has been the leading source for information, knowledge sharing and development in the marketing profession.  For more information, visit http://www.marketingpower.com.

Founded in 1946, AMA Pittsburgh is celebrating its 64th year as the largest marketing association in the region with more than 300 members and supports an additional 900 professional marketers who utilize AMA services and resources. Its mission is to support the professional growth of these 1,200 marketing executives through a variety of initiatives such as educational seminars and programs, a luncheon speaker series and networking events.  For more information visit http://www.amapittsburgh.org.

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