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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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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$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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Modern Family Marketing Rocks

…and “Average Joe Marketing” is for losers!

If you’re wondering why your “family-based” marketing strategy isn’t working like it used to, maybe it’s because you’re treating everyone the same. Sure you should treat your customers the same with regard to being respectful and being nice, but your marketing should treat them different with uniquely targeted messaging, services and products.

Today, America is a big diverse nation of over 300 million, with no single dominating household arrangement. America’s “nuclear family” of today consisting of a married couple with their own kids is a prejudiced old-fashioned, out-of-date model often seen as the quintessential average American family.

In 1970, 40.3% of U.S. households were nuclear family ones, but today these households count for <25% of all American households. And consider these facts:

  • Married couples without children count for 28.7% of households (bigger than nuclear ones)
  • Single households – single persons residing alone – count for 25.5% of households
  • Single male households are about 11% of all households

Telegram: There are no average American families – no average Joe’s or Joannne’s!

If your marketing is “family-based,” make sure you’re speaking the right language and using the right visuals. A big reason, this year’s big TV hit series and family comedy Modern Family is doing so well!

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Lt. Col. Allen West – A Marketer’s Dream

I don’t have many favorite politicians – check that – I don’t have a one! And, I’d bet most of you don’t have one.

Until maybe now.

Republican candidate for Congress and former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel Allen West is someone I’ve been following throughout his race in the Sunshine State!

And you should too.

Allen West, is a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and is running this November as a Republican candidate for the United States Congress in Florida’s District 22.

Watch this video of West in action. No notes – pure passion and conviction – clear message coming from experience – a complete mastery of the power of video and the mastery of the public speech!

When the Republicans and McCain and Co., got outgunned and derailed by the Obama campaign in the last presidential election, there’s no question that one of big contributing factors was that they were far behind in mastering the New World Order of interactive and social media marketing tools.

In the next election/s, you’ll see that everyone will be on the SMM bus. And, it will be somewhat of a level playing field in terms of marketing execution since most everyone will be wearing a pretty nice SMM tool belt and carrying a well equipped toolbox.

Check out West’s Web site and you’ll see its complete with all the appropriate SMM tools however, his talent, integrity, character and clear brand message and performance rules.

Certainly money helps, but in this online, always on world we live in, citizen journalists can help West even out the playing field for his underfunded brand.

Watch out for the Allen West’s of the world (performance based brands with character, integrity and trustworthiness) and remember that tools are cool, but tools don’t rule because anybody can buy them and learn how to use them.

To excel these days, recognize that for today’s informed consumer, what truly matters is a clearly communicated and meaningful brand promise delivered from a trustworthy, proven brand. Guaranteed.

P.S.: I call Lt. Col. Allen West a Marketer’s dream because it’s so easy to promote a brand you believe in. I’ll bet West wins in November – this American Patriot prays and hopes that he does – we need more good people like him in government.

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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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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.

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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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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

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